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2006 - Zambia Advice

 

 

The Scabbie

The word Scabenga is probably derived from the trade unionist term SCAB which was assigned to those who broke the strike and went back to work or worked through the strike. Often Scabs would be severely beaten, their families threatened and ostracized from the work or union community.

In Zambia you get what is known, by legitimate safari operators, as the ‘Scabenga Safari’ and doesn’t stray very far from its original unionist origins in description and meaning. Basically what you are dealing with here is an illegal hunt conducted in a concession area under a local or resident hunters license usually sold to a client as a cull or meat hunt not by a Zambian but usually by a foreign PH or ‘outfitter’.

cheapest NOT always the best ....

Here’s the deal: In Zambia, only those Safari outfitters who have been given hunting rights in hunting concessions or GMA’s (game management areas), are allowed to sell safaris. This has always been the case and the only other manner that safaris can be sold is if these government appointed Safari operators appoint another person or organization as their booking or sales agent. In short, the legal paperwork channel must be followed and the hunt must be conducted under the name of and by the Safari operator who legally holds the hunting rights.

Safari hunting for international clients is governed by a set of laws which Safari Operators or outfitters have to follow and allows for professional service and to some extent ensures the client gets a quality hunt and has recourse through various channels if anything goes wrong. This results in higher fees and any international client wanting to hunt in Zambia has to hunt under these circumstances / regulations, it is a fair playing field for all parties concerned.

BUT in Zambia you have many local resident hunters who are allowed, from September 1 st each year, to hunt certain species for meat. They have the option of hunting in what locals term an open area which is like hunting on public land, OR they can apply to hunt in one of the Safari hunting concessions or GMA's. As may be expected, GMA's have a greater abundance of game and make for better hunting success.

However it also leaves open the door for residents to ‘pretend’ they are outfitters or PH’s and invite foreign clients on these hunts for a fee. The fees for this kind of hunt are incredibly low because they cater to locals who are after meat to feed their families and typically species are restricted to plainsgame and in some cases buffalo and hippo. So when a foreign client sees this price compared to the ‘legal’ price he starts thinking twice. Especially if he hears that he will be hunting a GMA

Usually you will find a foreign PH or outfitter approaching a Zambian resident (or it could be the other way round) and making a deal with them to apply for the resident license for a particular GMA. This resident license can only be issued in the name of the local Zambian resident, not the name of the foreign PH or the foreign client. The foreign PH then sells this hunt to a client who he may or may not tell what the real situation is.

The bottom line is the price of these hunts are incredibly low and unfortunately more often than not, the clients who go for this cheap hunt are people who are taking a once off dream African trip and 99 percent of the time end up disappointed. Then the natural reaction, once they have been burned is that Africa sucks OR Zambia sucks. They don’t realize that they may have booked a dud safari or that the person they booked with was not honest with them, they blame the country or the continent because it is easier than saying I made the wrong choice.

In the end the legitimate Safari operators lose out because this is who the finger gets pointed at. The ‘fly-by-night’ outfitter or PH is long gone and we in Zambia are left to try and explain this intricate situation (because it is complicated to understand from an outsiders viewpoint).

Here are some warning signals:

Firstly, on the Scabenga hunts the client is not allowed to import their own firearm into the country so they will be told that they can use the local PH’s firearm. By law only clients of registered Safari operators are allowed to temporarily import their firearms for the purpose of a hunting safari. So if you are told you cannot bring in your rifle, think again! More than likely you are dealing with illegal operators.

Secondly, the actual hunting license cannot be issued in your name and you will probably be told that if questioned by anyone looking like a wildlife scout while out in the bush, you must say you are just a friend along as an observer and that you are NOT hunting. You see, what happens is that the local resident whose name the license is issued in is the only person allowed to hunt the game specified on the hunting license or permit. BUT he is allowed to invite ‘friends’ along and technically you are there as his friend and must restrict your activities to those of an observer.

This leads to the third warning light. Legally only trophies hunted through a legitimate and registered Safari operator will be issued with an export permit. To obtain this export certificate the Safari operator has to present to the Zambia wildlife authority, a hunting license in the name of the foreign client. So either you will be told that the hunt you are doing is a cull hunt and no trophies can be exported or you will simply be lied to and never see your trophies.

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WHY the fuss!

In 2004 I was hunting in a prime concession in the Luangwa valley doing a 2x1 buffalo hunt with clients from England. It was 2 days before the end of August when our hunt started and as usual one does not shoot the first animals you see, after all we are hunting.

The concession is not one of the Luangwa’s biggest but is excellent for Buffalo and we spent the early mornings wandering the river banks searching for fresh spoor to follow as the groups of old kakulis would cross during the night in search of the freshly fallen flowers of the sausage trees. Often you could hear them far ahead, the knock of their horns and the occasional grunt as they jousted beneath the towering trees. During the first two days we sighted Buffalo each morning and each evening and, not to be arrogant about it, I elected to pass as I felt we could spend more time enjoying the hunt as well as look for bigger trophies.

Then the season for local or resident hunters opened, September 1 st , and before nightfall the small concession was flooded with 4 groups of ‘local’ hunters. The first dilemma I had was I had 2 clients who had paid top dollar to hunt in one of Africa's last wilderness areas. Instead they were now sharing the concession with a myriad of locals charging about the concession in all forms of possible transport in search of buffalo and other game. On two occasions we were following a herd of buffalo on foot when a charging vehicle approached and started firing at will, dispersing the herd towards us. Of more concern was trying not to get in the way of the bullets, the charging mass of black bodies was nothing compared to the firepower we faced.

Then, one night we got a plea from a local fisherman that his partner had been badly bitten by a croc and needed help. They had approached the two resident camps which were nearer to the scene of the attack but they were turned away, even scolded for requesting help. The poor guys leg was ripped to shreds below the knee and we set off along the bush track towards the hospital. En route we passed to trucks, both loaded to the hilt with Buffalo, at least 3 animals on the back of each vehicle. It was an old trick that may residents used, shoot an extra one or two then wait until nightfall, get them back to camp and work the carcasses and when morning comes, the crocodiles have a belly full of hooves and skin and the camp only shows one very massive buffalo has been shot!

So not only are these hunts troublesome to legitimate operators, they bring the type of person into the hunting concession which does not care about sticking to the rules and have absolutely no regard for the wildlife or the local people. To be honest, they are the worst type of hunter because when they are not breaking the law by conducting a Scabenga hunt as described above, they are hell bent on shooting as much meat as possible!

To all of our subscribers, I wish a prosperous 2006 and trust that your hunting will be both memorable and successful.

If you do need any help or advice with planning a safari please do not hesitate to contact me personally

Pete Swanepoel jnr

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"I speak of Africa and golden joys" ; the joy of wandering through lonely lands; the joy of hunting the mighty lords of the wilderness, the cunning, the wary, and the grim." Theodore Roosevelt - 1908
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