Big game hunting in Africa is a sticky issue. In Tanzania it’s worse, an abomination. Last month’s killing of a Tanzanian big game hunter by poachers right adjacent the Serengeti says it all.
I did not know Andre de Kock, the hunter who was murdered, but I have had a few rare run-ins with the company for which he worked, Robin Hurt Safaris (RHS). RHS was founded by Robin Hurt, probably the last of the great waving white hair machos to stroll Africa.
His company’s antics are tucked in secrecy, difficult to confirm. In main this is because many hunting clients don’t want to be known, so the client list is a guarded secret. We are reduced to the undesirable necessity of referring to rumors. Rumors that his client list includes the King of Jordan and Saif Gaddafi.
Bold and irresponsible if I had not myself encountered Arabs pointing AK47s at me on the border of the northeast Serengeti shortly after my cell phone beeped with a message welcoming me to the UAEmirates phone system.
I will never forget having strayed maybe 20 or 22 feet out of the Serengeti trying to find the migration for some clients when a Ford pickup looking for all the world like a Somali militia raced up to us buried in its own dust.
When the dust settled I counted not less than 9 “kids” all armed with AK47s, standing in the back of the truck. Not exactly your Sunday bird shoot with an aspic chicken basket.
We weren’t armed, by the way.
The guns weren’t pointed at us, but the truck was. Robin stepped out in his all too small short shorts to ask what the hell we were doing in “his quadrant.”
He was referring to the Maswa Game Reserve, a hunting reserve adjacent the southwest Serengeti.
February 18 Andre de Kock was hunting with a client in that same Maswa reserve. He stopped to retrieve a blue bag discarded on the veld.
It was filled with ammunition and belonged to poachers who then killed him and wounded some of his staff.
I bear no ill will to de Kock or his family. For all I know his situation was as destined as the poachers, who could be unemployed by a creeping world order that denies gainful employment to the well-trained, and who might have been starving. Although some reports claimed otherwise.
Allegedly, the poachers camp was later found to contain ivory, not something you can eat. Ivory poaching is more sinister, more organized, definitely something I’m less sympathetic to than the bushmeat trade. Pity the Tanzanian government doesn’t share my feelings.
So this is no easy issue. It raises visceral feelings, to be sure, on all sides. And it’s often hard to drill beneath the emotions to careful debate.
This blog is not intended to be careful. You live by the sword. You die by the sword.