Volker Grellman Early
Since the 1930s, the SWA Jaeger Verein was founded to organise and control the local sport hunters who could also be classified as local trophy hunters. The hunting times were limited to the same as the meat-hunting season, being June and July of every year. In that time also, the South African biltong hunters flocked in numbers into the country.
It was not until the late 50s and early 60s that some international hunters showed interest in collecting trophies in Namibia. Among the first was Elgin Gates, a famous hunter from the US. He had contacted Basie Maartens, requesting possibilities to hunt some “desert” species. Since 1959, a clause in the Ordinance no. 18 of 1958 stated that the administrator was allowed to give permission to VIP visitors to also hunt during the non-hunting season.
In these years, Kenya and Tanzania were still fully operational with safari hunting, which only made it possible for Namibia to play a role after the closure of Kenya. The East African Professional Hunters chose to move to Botswana, not only because of the language, but also because Botswana had open concessions with big game to offer. Apart from the local languages, in the then South West Africa (former German colony), German and Afrikaans were mainly used, and the country lacked big-game hunting possibilities.
In the early years, game on the SWA farms was considered a liability and definitely not an asset. The rural farming community was still fairly poor because of the constantly occurring droughts, where food and water shortages were rather the rule than the exception. Any additional mouth to feed was a burden and loss to the cattle breeders. Newspaper adverts by someone selling a farm stated, “Good cattle farm for sale – guaranteed no game.” Furthermore, the game belonged to the state and was only allowed to be hunted in June/July for biltong or own-use purposes. That was no incentive for the cattle or small-stock farmers to keep game or large numbers of grazers and browsers on their property.
In the late 60s, the Jaeger Verein and some visionaries assisted the Nature Conservation Agency to influence and adapt the law so that the landowner in future should also be the owner of some huntable game species and huntable game birds, and be able to utilize them in the best way possible. This brought about dramatic change.
In 1970, we started a small conservation/hunting organisation (ANVO Safaris). This grew with time to such a size that at a general meeting of that organisation, we could establish in 1974 the first Professional Hunting Organisation, which later was renamed NAPHA after the independence of Namibia in 1990. There were no laws or regulations controlling the “profession” at that time. In 1975, the Ordinance on Nature Conservation No. 4/1975 was proclaimed. Then, immediately following that, the early visionaries jumped into action to build up the regulations on trophy hunting and, under the leadership of Nature Conservator Mr Stoffel Roche, these regulations – No. 240/1976 – became official in 1976. While going through the old files, for the first time we found words like, “wise use of natural resources”, “sustainable utilisation”, “the importance of biodiversity”, etc., in the discussions among conservators and in the hunting community.
Because we only fixed the terms in the Laws and Regulations after 1976, we had no terminology fixed for Professional Hunters or Hunting Guides. Anybody involved in guiding hunters in the country considered themselves Safari or Hunting Operators. The first guide in this country who comes to mind was Basie Maartens. Basie was 10 years my senior – I would therefore probably fall into the second generation of PHs, together with Paul Klotsch (mainly Botswana), and some others who did it part time.
If we look at the game that was available for the early trophy hunters – it was kudu, oryx, hartebeest, springbok and warthog. Later, it included protected species like steenbok, duiker, Hartmann’s zebra, eland and wildebeest. Only in 1991, were dik-dik and klipspringer allowed, after careful scrutiny of population numbers.
In the very early years, the Department of Nature Conservation was heavily opposed to trophy hunting, but as game populations grew, attitudes changed, and today we probably have the closest working relationship imaginable. Animals in the big-game category were only allowed in the late 70s in my big game concession in Damaraland, where our clients hunted lions, leopards and elephants (later dubbed “Desert Elephants”). The last trophy bull, named “Skeur Oor” hunted by us in 1983, also drew the first anti-hunting organisations into the picture. Although we had a quota of black rhino, we voluntarily did not utilize any as we did not have any scientific evaluation of their status.
Big-game concessions became possible after 1988 in Bushmanland for really heavy old ivory carriers – also in the Caprivi (now Zambezi Region), East and West. After Independence in 1990, all the communal areas in the North-West and North-East were given concession rights on established limited quotas for elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, lion and leopard.
Trophy prices in 1975 were:
Kudu – R125;
Oryx – R100;
Springbok and warthog – R40;
Mountain zebra – R180;
Ostrich – R50.
Daily rates 1×1 were R48 per day, and R18 for observers. A three-course lunch at a better hotel cost R2.20. The first Land Cruiser we bought out of the box cost R3 500 – can you believe it!
(Today’s exchange rate is plus or minus R13.30 = $1)
PLEASE GET A PICTURE OF THE EARLY LAND CRUISERS FROM TOYOTA
One of the greater challenges that we experienced in the earlier days was to convince the Nature Conservation authority that selective trophy hunting, when done properly and through targeting over-mature male animals, could be beneficial to the species and, through the trophy fees, beneficial to the landowners. Another great challenge was to influence legislation to change and make international trophy hunters feel more welcome to visit this country, as well as needing to market the country as a hunting destination, and find the clients to assist in this program.
The main success for trophy hunting in Namibia is that it started from virtually nothing and developed into a well-established “industry” that is very popular. The game nowadays is treated with respect, and trophy hunting practices are on an absolute professional level. Game numbers have increased to their highest level ever and are gradually pushing domestic animals off their former primary position. Game is definitely not a liability anymore, but rather one of the greatest assets to landowners, conservationists, and tourism in general. Now Namibia can offer some of the best hunting in Africa, not only on plains but also on big game.
As with everything in life, change happens. The wildlife industry in Namibia developed quite steadily and sustainably. But, as always, where money is involved, excesses can be expected, especially on some farms that have developed in recent years to get involved with breeding programs that were imported from South Africa. Luckily, those practices were not allowed. For instance, no predator breeding is allowed at all. Breeding of color variants reared its head, but presently seems to be fading.
Many large portions of land were converted to wildlife ranches with just one outside game-proof border fence and no internal fences. Hunting offered there is also done on fair-chase rules. Wildlife ranches are normally without any cattle or domestic animals, and have introduced African species on condition that they find a suitable habitat on such lands. Otjiwa, 10 000 hectares in extent, was the first one to be established in 1969. From early times on, virtually all trophy hunting took place on cattle farms that also hosted good populations of wildlife species. Such farms are still the mainstay of trophy hunting in Namibia. Legally, they have to be registered as hunting farms, and the persons guiding hunting clients should be registered as Hunting Guides. ***
Presently, after 42 years, Namibia Nature Conservation authority is finalising the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Act that will replace the Ordinance of 1975. Also, the regulations on trophy hunting will be updated, Additionally, we at NAPHA are presently working on a new, all-encompassing Code of Conduct which could become the National Code.
Yes, we are very proud of having achieved the highest ranking of good standing in hunting standards and levels of hunting ethics. This was possible through good leadership and the doings of many passionate landowners and hunting professionals. That includes the dedicated Nature Conservation Officials.
After 42 years, we all feel it is time to adapt to more modern conditions, though without discarding the old trusted and proven good portions of the former Act. For the first time, Namibia envisages having a Council of Professional Hunting (Statutory Body). A two-decade-long dream becomes reality!
Looking at the present situation, one has to get the impression that all the role-players in hunting in Namibia will be able to meet the future with full optimism, even with droughts, anti-hunting pressure and climate change. Everybody seems to be prepared and better trained and educated to face the challenges. One of the main aims for the short-term future would be to improve the image of hunting in general, as well as trophy hunting in particular. We might even have to change the terminology of some debatable definitions.
(Mr) Volker Grellmann
P.O. Box 90161, Whk
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