Africa Lion Hunting Safari

The following is an email response to a Global Sporting Safaris customer who is considering an Africa Lion Hunting Safari in 2011.  The customer’s email request was somewhat vague so Bob’s response was used to get a better idea of what the prospective lion hunter wanted to accomplish.

Response:

Lion hunting in Africa today is a lot like buying a car – different makes and models.  In this case, lion hunting is primarily restricted to the following countries (countries where lions can be legally imported back to the US):  Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the costs for these hunts vary dramatically. 

Insofar as the lions are concerned, there are Estate lions in South Africa that have been born and raised in captivity (more on this in a moment) and free-range lions in most of the other destinations.  More importantly, success rates will vary with the particular destination as will the mane quality of the lion.   There has been an international effort to restrict the taking of lions less than six years of age and most of the professional hunters in the free-range states are very careful to adhere to this policy and, in point of fact, there are penalties in some countries for the taking of a lion less than six years old.  The reason for this is that after six, these males are deemed to be no longer dominant and have probably been kicked out of the pride by a younger male, so these males have done their breeding and the taking of an older male does not disrupt the structure of the pride.   

Those males that live in the dense thorn of the lowveld in Zimbabwe and Mozambique tend to have scraggly manes as their daily life in the thorn suppresses the luxurious manes typically found on East African lions or seen at the movie theater.  There are exceptions of course, but not often.

For the Estate lions in South Africa, you can choose whether you want an “MGM” lion or something a bit less for a lesser amount of money.  These lions are behind high fences in very large paddocks and the hunting is still fair chase (spot and stalk or tracking) and is no less exciting than hunting a free range lion.  The difference is that it is generally cheaper and you are assured of taking a lion – unlike lion hunting in the other destinations.

So, this is lion 101.  In order to start working on a hunt, I need to know your preferences and whether you have a philosophical objection to hunting an estate lion or whether you would prefer to hunt a free range lion over bait in the traditional manner.  Aside from the Estate lions in South Africa, there is free range lion hunting in the areas surrounding Kruger National Park, but it is expensive.  The next rung up the ladder from a cost standpoint would be Zimbabwe, then Zambia, with Tanzania being the top of the heap from a pricing standpoint.  Lion are available in Mozambique, but both quotas and success rates are not as good as my previous suggestions.  The other question would be if there is quota available in Zimbabwe, Zambia or Tanzania for 2011 as lion hunting is quite popular, the quotas remain low and there was a fear this past year that seasons would be closed as a result of the CITES COP 15 in Doha.  As it turned out, we were able to defeat the proposal to uplist lions once again, but the fear remains – which has affected the availability of lion and driven the cost up (basic supply and demand).

Once you have reviewed the information and given me an idea as to your preferences and preferred budget, then I will start the process of narrowing your choices down and provide pricing and availability.

In the meantime, I hope that you have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!      

Sincerely,

Robert M. Anderson
Certified Wildlife Biologist
Africa Program Director

About Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. 

Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. is a Full-Service Hunting Booking Agency located in Casper, Wyoming and established in 1991. We have a staff of 7 Hunting Consultants and Fishing Travel Agents with a combined 175 years of experience.   We specialize in Africa Hunting Safaris, New Zealand Hunting and Argentina Hunting.   Global Sporting Safaris invests time, effort and financial resources in developing our hunting trips with a constant eye on the quality and professional services they offer.

Bernard+Associates presents, A Growling in the Rain by Robert Reitnauer

Tanzania Lion Hunting

A Growling in the Rain

Stalking a lion in a downpour is something only a crazy East African hunter would do.

It was a hot and dry September day in Tanzania, just south of the little village of Loiborserrit. We left our camp under the stand of tall fig trees and drove off in the hunting car with clients Clarence and Carol, bouncing over tracks someone had the audacity to call roads. We were looking for a good lion in a heavily hunted concession, which meant the big cats were well-educated and keeping to cover during the day.

About 40 miles from camp we happened upon some promising tracks and immediately set out to acquire some bait for our blinds. By late afternoon we’d collected an old buffalo bull, then cut up and tied the hind-quarters at two sites several miles apart. Close by the bait trees we built ground blinds that blended in perfectly into the surrounding brush.

“Cat’s in the bag,” I jokingly bragged on the torturous drive back in the utter blackness of an African night.

The next morning found me relaxing in my tent, listening to mourning doves and green pigeons and my staff preparing breakfast. The couple had bagged everything except a lion, and I was determined to leave the baits undisturbed for at least two days. Other than a few hours of bird-shooting, sitting around camp seemed like a good choice.

My tent man brought hot shaving water, poured it into the canvas washbasin and hinted that bwana should get his rear-end in gear and shave. While shaving, I noticed a respectable bank of clouds – definitely rain clouds – but in September? The clouds continued to build up throughout the day and by afternoon, the humidity was oppressive, the air warm and still.

In the wee hours of the following morning the heavens opened and rain cascaded down, accompanied by streaks of lightning that crisscrossed the sky. Water rushed everywhere and so did we, hammering in longer tent pegs to prevent our tents from collapsing. By noon the rain was falling steadily and the little waterhole next to camp had become a small lake.

The deluge didn’t stop until early the next morning, and by sunrise the dry bushveld was alive with the sounds of insects, birds and even the hysterical  laughter of a hyena scouting out our camp.

This will be Clarence’s day, I thought, though we’ll probably have to put up with more rain.

After loading our guns and gear in the Land Cruiser, we headed to the closest bait, plowing through muddy, red water and with the tires slinging mud in all directions.

About five miles from the blind, my Number One bearer and I left the vehicle and walked to the bait site. Our approach was good, but the last few hundred yards were tricky because of sparse cover. Finally, we reached a big acacia bush where we stopped to glass the bait and surrounding area.

Suddenly Number One began nodding his head, like Kavirondo cranes during their mating rituals. I never could understand how he could see better than me, especially with my Zeiss binoculars. He had spotted something out of the ordinary, perhaps just a shadow, ghosting through the dense thornbrush. Number One was all for taking a closer look, to find long mane hairs, proof of a good lion, but something told me to back off, as Simba might be close.

After checking the second bait, which had not been touched, we stopped to eat lunch and quench our thirst under the shade of a big tarp. The air was hot and muggy, and we could see another mountain of dark clouds coming toward us from Ol Doinya Lolbene near camp.

Tanzania Lion Hunting

Lion Hunting in the Rain

Despite the approaching storm, I thought our best bet was to hunt from the first blind – to give it a shot, rain or no rain, because our area permit would expire in a couple days and we had to leave. Number One thought bwana was off his rocker, but was willing to follow my intuition.

The rain was pouring down when he stopped the vehicle and once on the trail, we were quickly soaked to the skin. Clarence’s wide-brimmed hat lost its shape and it appeared he would need windshield wipers to keep the water off his tri-focals. At least the rain felt pleasantly warm.

We slipped and slid the last 200 yards to the blind, where the downpour blanked out everything but a faint outline of the bait tree. The thunder rumbled while raindrops drummed on the parched soil and splattered the leaves and branches; at least the noise would cover our approach.

Huge drops continued to bombard us as we hunkered down inside the blind, our boots covered in mud. I focused my binoculars on the bait and the area around it, but failed to see anything. I wondered: Can a person get any wetter than wet . . . or be more miserable and have such fun?

Late that afternoon, as the rain let up and our visibility improved, Number One and I really began to concentrate. I had to wipe my binos constantly though Clarence didn’t seem to notice; he was bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I don’t think his mind was on lion hunting.

And then I saw him, looking as ragged and wet as us, walking over to the bait tree to get out of the wind and rain.

Breathless minutes passed. How long would he stay there? Would he even come out to eat in the rain?

Dusk was approaching and if we waited, good shooting light would soon be gone. In my mind, our only chance was to leave the blind and stalk closer. Number One said it might work, but Clarence thought stalking a lion in the rain was something only a crazy East African hunter would do.

It was crazy, I admit, but soon all three of us were crawling over the wet grass and mud toward the big tree. It seemed like hours had passed before we were within 20 yards of the tree and the remains of the buffalo dangling from a heavy limb. I figured it was time to stand, abandon caution and see what in hell was going to happen. We were certainly well-armed for whatever came next; I had my .416, Number One carried a .416 and Clarence his .375. You need that kind of firepower in a situation like this.

Fifteen paces . . . ten . . . then I was so close to the tree I could have reached out touched it with my rifle barrel. 

Sensing something wasn’t right, the lion popped his head out from behind the tree. Instantly, his big eyes blazed like coals and he issued a deep, rumbling growl. Then, like hot oil gushing from a drum, his huge, tawny body seemed to flow around the tree as he flung his huge paws right at my head. Three heavy-caliber bullets tore into his head, neck and chest, and old simba dropped heavily to the soggy ground, barely a step away from my feet.

Hours later, after a good meal and with some elixirs to warm our bodies, the rains finally stopped and the southern sky was once again studded with stars. We sat around the campfire, reliving our adventure and trying to make sense of the heavy rains that seemed so out of synch with the season. But my gunbearers had the answer: The heavens had to weep, because a simba died.

Editor’s Note: Born in Tanzania (East Africa) in 1933, Robert Reitnauer was formerly a fully licensed Professional Hunter and Safari Operator in southern Africa.

A Growling in the Rain was written by Robert Reitnauer and reprinted with permission from Bernard+Associates.

About Global Sporting Safaris;

Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. is a Full-Service Hunting Booking Agency located in Casper, Wyoming and established in 1991. We have a staff of ‘7’ Hunting Consultants and Fishing Travel Agents with a combined 175 years of experience.   We hold integrity, ethics and honesty in high regard and deal with each client in a one on one basis.   Global Sporting Safaris invests time, effort and financial resources in developing our outfitters and guides with a constant eye on the quality and professional services they offer.

Lion Conservation Developments

There have been a number of positive new developments in African lion conservation. First, Conservation Force presented $32,070 to the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife (Philippe Chardonnet, CEO) in early June for the campaign to complete lion national action plans. The funds were donations from dozens of individuals and entities and were all 100 percent pass-throughs, i.e. not a dime is withheld by Conservation Force. The largest sums were from The Chancellor Foundation and John B. Ellis, followed by ESPN Outdoors/ Disney, Steven Scott and others.

Second, Paula White has completed the lion aging guideline for Zambia lion that Conservation Force contracted last year. We hope to post it on Conservation Force’s website but can’t do so until some kinks are worked out. We will advise. In the meantime, Paula has printed and distributed this new Regional Aging Guide to the PHs and operators in Zambia. In Paula’s words, “The Regional Guide for Zambia” is being promoted as a ‘work in progress’ and is specifically designed to elicit feedback from the hunting community here on what they find helpful, lacking, good, bad, etc. The main point is to raise awareness and to generate dialogue, and from the initial responses of the first few PHs who viewed the guide, it will indeed prove interesting and informative. I am also hoping that the pictures in the guide will help educate folks on what sorts of photos are most useful for aging purposes, and that future photos will be a bit more standardized. “Overall, it is an impressive compilation and speaks to the dedication of the Zambian hunting fraternity that they provided this much information over the years, as well as to yourselves as the funders helping to make this guide happen. The goal now is to obtain feedback and trophy info from the 2010 season, and then revise the guide accordingly to make a final version available by May 2011.

Third, the Tanzania lion study has been completed. Philippe Chardonnet’s team and the Tanzania wildlife department authorities worked together on the fact-gathering project. Though the report has not yet been released a few points can be made. It concludes that 5.1 times more land is part of the hunting areas than the other protected areas (parks). There are an estimated 17,000 lion in Tanzania, by far the largest population in the world. This estimate is thought to be conservative. It is several thousand more than the Chardonnet/ Conservation Force estimate of 2002, but that does not mean there has been a population increase. To the contrary, the 2002 study, though more comprehensive than any other study, was conservative and incomplete. It demonstrates that the earlier 2002 estimate was as conservative as we represented it to be at the time. It cannot be concluded that the population has gone up or down in the past decade, only that it is still substantial. Some of the survey does demonstrate that the lion is capable of rapid increase, that the population in some areas have declined and some increased. Safari Club International funded nearly half of the project and gave convention booth credit points to the hunting operators that donated the largest share. SCI has really stepped up to the plate. It funded the lion study followed by the action plan workshop in Mozambique and is in the process of doing the same in Malawi. We are proud to say Conservation Force Board Member Philippe Chardonnet, Ph.D. has been contracted to do the work in each instance. The survey in Tanzania will be followed by a workshop to develop an up-to-date National Lion Action Plan for Tanzania.

Fourth, Karyl Whitman has been contracted by Conservation Force to do a small foldout brochure on how to age lions in Eastern and Southern Africa. This will be a smaller version but not a substitute for the 52-page guide we made available through publisher Safari Press. We will provide more information in the next month or two.

Fifth, some other international organizations are stepping up their lion conservation activities. National Geographic and Panthera are both fundraising for the great cats of the world. Unlike Conservation Force’s campaign that they mimic in part, they are not devoted exclusively to the African lion and contributions will not be 100 percent pass-through.

Reprinted with permission from The Conservation Force Bulletin, produced by John J. Jackson, III of Conservation Force and published by The Hunting Report.

Global Sporting Safaris, Inc. is a Full-Service Hunting Consultant Agency located in Casper, Wyoming and established in 1991. We have a staff of 7 Hunting Consultants and Fishing Travel Agents with a combined 175 years of experience.   We hold integrity, ethics and honesty in high regard and deal with each client in a one on one basis.   Global Sporting Safaris invests time, effort and financial resources in developing our outfitters and guides with a constant eye on the quality and professional services they offer.