Professional Hunter and Hunting Outfitter, Glaeser Conradie, a member of PHASA, SCI and ACP (Confirme), is a qualified and licensed dangerous game hunter and experienced field guide since January 2001. During the past 15 years, he has guided numerous hunters from all around the world on different hunting concessions in Southern, Eastern, Western and Central Africa. Leica Pro Hunter Philippe Jaeger met him for an interview.
For some reasons, elephant hunting is considering nowadays even by some hunters, as something completely taboo. What do you think about that?
Conradie: Most people are understandably more sensitive about hunting animals like elephant, lion, leopard, bears and giraffe than hunting antelope for example. There are several reasons for this. Leopard for example are solitary animals and appears rare in itself. Although intelligence is relative, elephants for example are considered to be more intelligent than most antelope. This might be true, but then again, we should regard any life form as precious. We cannot judge for ourselves that a lion is more special than a kudu, but there are plenty less lion in the wild than kudu.
This is true. The bottom line is that we should do our homework and hunt according to the official quotas available. The problem from a hunter’s perspective is that in some countries hunting quotas are hi-jacked by anti-hunting sentiment. In most countries you will find more animals in the hunting concessions than in the national parks or any other part of the country. In Burkina Faso for example, you will not see any wild animals outside the hunting areas. The reason for this is that hunting adds a financial value to the animals and are therefor protected by local population instead of being poached. Elephant is hunted on a 21 – 28 days safari, which cost between 35 000 and 55 000 USD. The hunting is tough and clients walk up to 30 km per day looking for the correct animal. Only old solitary males are hunted. CITES offers limited quotas each year for several countries. Only CITES elephant’s trophies can be exported and professional hunters therefore has to “stick by the rules”. We should also keep in mind that every year villagers get killed by elephants and for them an elephant is far from what some anti-hunting organisations would like to bring into european minds.
As we just saw, it can be quite expensive to hunt an elephant. Who benefits from that money?
The government and the outfitter gets most of the money, but most of both party’s profit is used to plough back into the concession – anti-poaching, building camps, salaries, making roads and many more expenses. Most of the meat goes to the local villages. As soon as the hunting block is closed or taken away from the hunting outfitter, the locals start to poach the elephants for themselves. When you are hungry, conservation’s priority status drops a few bars. I have seen many wounded elephants as well as very young elephant calves wandering alone through the bush. This is the result of poachers hunting with inadequate rifles and shooting elephant cows and leaving the young to fight for themselves. This is the result of taking the hunters out of the bush. I would add a point on top of that. Nowadays everybody speaks about sustainable tourism. There is no more sustainable tourism then hunting tourism. Our hunters don’t need 5 stars hotels build in sensitive natural habitats, because they live in tents. When we move, we leave no rubbish behind us. We eat local food cooked by local people, and as I said before, the money is invested in the local environment, not in marketing purposes for some agencies located on the other side of the planet.
What is the conservation status of the elephant in Africa and is it really endangered?
The African Elephant was listed as Vulnerable (VU A2a) in the 2004 IUCN Red List. Prior to the 2004 assessment, the species was listed as Endangered (EN A1b). African Elephants currently occur in 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They are known to have become nationally extinct in Burundi in the 1970s, in Gambia in 1913, in Mauritania in the 1980s, and in Swaziland in 1920, where they were reintroduced in the 1980s and 1990s. Although large tracts of continuous elephant range remain in parts of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, elephant distribution is becoming increasingly fragmented across the continent. The quality of knowledge available on elephant distribution varies considerably across the species’ range. While distribution patterns are well understood in most of Eastern, Southern and West Africa, there is little reliable information on elephant distribution for much of Central Africa.
Although elephant populations may at present be declining in parts of their range, major populations in Eastern and Southern Africa, accounting for over two thirds of all known elephants on the continent, have been surveyed, and are currently increasing at an average annual rate of 4.0% per annum (Blanc et al. 2005, 2007). As a result, more than 15,000 elephants are estimated to have been recruited into the population in 2006 and, if current rates of increase continue, the number of elephants born in these populations between 2005 and 2010 will be larger than the currently estimated total number of elephants in Central and West Africa combined. In other words, the magnitude of ongoing increases in Southern and Eastern Africa are likely to outweigh the magnitude of any likely declines in the other two regions. Hunting is perceived as cruel, but a well-placed shot by a hunter is a much better option than what an abattoir or nature can offer an animal. Nature is very cruel. Unfortunately most people are so emotional and live with a Walt Disney syndrome. We have to manage our wildlife. We are part of nature. We created the boundaries where wildlife can move or not. An elephant has a lifespan of up to 75 years. It takes a baob tree a few thousand years to reach it’s gigantic self. An elephant can rip the bark of this tree in a day or two and it dies. We have the responsibility to keep the balance.