It was late afternoon. Suddenly the baboons started jabbering, and a young giraffe near the bait vanished. Hassanali Ladak, my PH whispered to me, “The lion is very near.
At the 2010 SCI Convention in Reno, Hilary of Hilary Daffi Safaris, informed me he was in the process of acquiring a new concession in the Selous and that I needed to hunt his new area as soon as possible. This particular concession had not been hunted for a while, and I would be one of only a few hunters going on a pioneering adventure. I had had such a good time on my previous hunt that I found myself booking for the following September. Continue reading Lion of Lunda→
From the outside looking in, a non-hunter might find it hard to comprehend. What needs to be understood is that hunters have a deep care and passion for the animals they pursue to ensure that a healthy population of that resource remains.
Hunters commit a large amount of resources and time to help promote species of game to sustainable levels to be able to pursue them for hunting.
The impact of hunters on the African lion has become a hot button issue, to say the least, over the past few years. What should be a discussion based on science has turned into an emotionally charged topic.
Hunting has proven to bring large amounts of money to many African countries. These hunters not only help support the local economies, but also help protect and promote local wildlife. In the Keeping the Lions Share Report, from 2008 to 2011, hunters generated $75 million for Tanzania’s economy alone.
But when it comes to the African lion itself, hunters have again stepped up to the plate to continue to conserve them with science based management and on-the-ground efforts with antipoaching.
Since 2007, Safari Club International has spent over $1.1 million in research efforts, including lion population surveys in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Studies conducted also researched genetics and health of local wildlife populations. Providing key information to wildlife officials and biologists is essential to ensure science-based decisions are made in conservation.
Jason Roussos was raised in the footsteps of his father, Nassos, one of Africa’s legendary PHs, and exposed to hunting from a very young age. “I was blessed to accompany my father on many safaris,” says Roussos. “Some of my best hunting memories were trudging along behind dad and his clients through the rainforests of western Ethiopia hunting the huge elephants of Africa. With that kind of upbringing, becoming a PH was pretty much inevitable.”
Roussos graduated with a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University in 1999 and is a full time PH for Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris that was founded by his father in 1981. In 2009, Roussos was appointed Vice President/Secretary General of the African Professional Hunters Association, an organization whose members represent the top African PHs.
“To claim to be a PH in a country one should meet the following criteria: 1) have a PH license issued by the country where you are hunting, 2) be able to speak the local languages fluently, 3) know the hunting areas like the back of your hand, and 4) be extremely familiar with and knowledgeable about all the intricate behaviors and habits of the species you are hunting,” explains Roussos. “In my 14-year career, I have only, and will only, be a PH in Ethiopia, and now hunt 12 different concessions there. I have accompanied clients to numerous other African countries on hunts, but claiming to be a PH in those countries doesn’t fit my criteria.”
Roussos says hunting with him provides a unique African hunting experience. “After hunting in all of our concessions, you feel you have hunted several African countries all rolled into one. The ecological and species diversity of Ethiopia is unparalleled. We hunt over 40 species, 16 of which can only be hunted in Ethiopia. Currently, our company holds 13 SCI World Records.”
When hunting most dangerous game, his favorite rifle is a controlled feed, bolt action .458 Lott. “I believe this caliber and set up delivers sufficient stopping power partnered with exceptional reliability, accuracy and maneuverability,” he explains. “For going after wounded leopards in the extremely thick highland forests, where I’m usually on my backside inching forward while having to cut my way through with pruning shears, my choice is a 12 gauge Benelli Super Black Eagle II semi auto. In this low visibility, extremely precarious and up close conditions, aiming and shooting a single well placed round is just not possible. For these situations, the more lead in the air the better!”
During his 14 years afield, Roussos said some of his most memorable experiences with clients occurred after taking an animal the whole team has worked exceptionally hard to acquire. “A challenging hunt is a rollercoaster ride, both physically and mentally, comprised of an array of emotions and feelings that, if successful, culminates in an indescribable feeling of satisfaction, humility, friendship and pride,” he says. “Sharing these feelings and times with people who share my passion for hunting is undoubtedly one of the best parts of being a PH.”
Roussos recounts one such spine tingling experience. “There were several lions that had killed sugar cane plantation workers. We had to try to shoot them before they disappeared into the cane. After clean missing his first shot, the client then dropped the first lion. Now, the second lion was running to get back into the cane. The client made a ‘Hail Mary’ shot that luckily hit a major artery. I had to follow a wounded maneater lion into the sugar cane. With a several hundred foot cord tied to my belt loop so I could eventually be found, and with only about two feet of visibility in all directions, I scooted along on my butt for what felt like an eternity. After about 45 minutes of inching along, I found the lion dead. I turned out I had only gone about 50 yards into the sugarcane. Not a situation I’d like to repeat.”
Roussos is a SCI life member, was awarded the SCI Young Hunter of the Year Award in 1990 and the SCI President’s Award in 2009. He achieved a pinnacle of his hunting career in 2011 when he was awarded the SCI International Professional Hunter of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of his father who won the same award in 1987. At the 2014 SCI convention, Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris is proud to donate a “dream safari” to the SCI Sables Education Fund.
In 1999, Roussos co-founded and now serves on the board of The Murulle Foundation, a United States based 501(c)3 non-profit organization that conducts research and conservation efforts in Ethiopia. Research conducted by The Murulle Foundation prevented the mountain nyala from being upgraded to “Critically Endangered Status” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2007. This research is the primary reason that sport hunting for this world-class species is still possible today.
This afternoon at its annual meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, CEO Phil DeLone and I addressed the 10-member Executive Committee of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA),
There, we renewed our support of PHASA in its commitment to protect hunting and maintain the professional image of huntng in South Africa, and ensured open lines of communication so the important efforts of PHASA are heard by all SCI Members. PHASA President Hans “Scruffy” Vermaak thanked SCI for its support calling it, “vital to the PR drive that is underway.”
As the leaders of professional hunting in South Africa, PHASA sees what is happening to hunting in Botswana and Zambia and hopes its effort to protect hunting in South Africa also impacts its neighbors to the north.
We expressed how well Convention is shaping up for 2014. At its current pace, 2014 is rivaling 2012, which was our biggest Convention ever and also SCI’s 40th anniversary–2014 could prove to be a new record and we look forward to welcoming and seeing many PHASA members exhibiting in Las Vegas.
Lions and lion hunting remain on the front burner as a major concern of SCI and our efforts will have an effect on lion hunting in South Africa. Last December the anti-hunters filed a petition to uplist the African lion to “endangered” through the Endangered Species Act.
The African lion is not endangered, and SCI has already raised more than $1.2 Million dollars to prime a war chest for the coming battles over lions. We reported to PHASA that some of that money had already been spent for on-the-ground studies of lions and, as this battle could be one that is fought publicly, we have also conducted focus groups on what the public thinks of lion hunting and how to fight this battle so that facts prevail over emotion.
We still have several days of important meetings ahead of us, plus more in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, and I look forward to bringing you regular reports as the information and Internet connections are available.– Craig Kauffman