Tags: cup | hunters | scared | soccer

World Cup Scares Off Hunters

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 06:57 AM

BLAAUWKRANTZ SAFARIS, South Africa – Snapping dry twigs, muffled footsteps and hushed whispers are the only sound as the hunters stalk a herd of zebra in the thick South African bush.

A sudden thundering shot fells a stallion: one of a dozen trophies in a week's hunt posed with a proud American marksman drawn to South Africa's thriving hunting opportunities offered by abundant free-roaming wildlife.

But operators say the World Cup has driven away foreign clients in the industry's busiest season, which coincides with the month-long tournament.

"One by one they withdrew," said Arthur Rudman, owner of Blaauwkrantz Safaris which is less than an hour's drive north of World Cup host city Port Elizabeth.

"We support the World Cup completely. However, unfortunately it has a negative impact on our hunting industry."

A executive member of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, Rudman says the game industry annually contributes between five and seven billion rand (up to 908 million dollars, 745 million euros) to the economy.

Hunts are usually booked in advance with deposits paid but trips over the World Cup were called off for reasons ranging from congested airports, worries over transporting rifles, higher accommodation costs and inflated airfares.

Some operators have tried to entice football fans with special World Cup hunt packages, like Rudman, whose family business is offering a three-night package for 6,800 rand for two trophies.

But few have bitten.

"The soccer fans are not fellows who are really hunters. We have had interest, we are having a few hunters coming through, but it's not an avalanche," said Rudman.

"We haven't got the quantities that we should have in the middle of our hunting season which is June and July. I think we are going to be down 30 percent overall for the year."

The clients have postponed until 2011 but the gaps this year come after the global recession that saw foreign bookings in 2009 fall by 20 percent.

"At the end of the day, we could be in the region of 40 to 50 percent down on 2008 figures," estimates Rudman, who has been running hunts since 1978.

Hunting is big business in several parts of South Africa which is home to Africa's big five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

"We also had a lot of cancellations," said Werner van der Walt of Cheetau Safaris, an operator in the central Free State region which charges 35,000 dollars for a large male lion trophy.

"Our main business is lion hunting. That's been heavily hit. It's about 18 lions that we've lost," he told AFP. "In financial terms, that alone would have been 2.2 million" rands in revenue.

The World Cup is expected to draw 300,000 visitors and boost South Africa's economy by 0.5 percent, but Van der Walt's World Cup specials-- from plains game to big five packages -- have also tanked.

"They don't want to come in during the World Cup," said Van der Walt.

"We actually were thinking we were going to get busy. It was definitely a disappointment, but we'll get through it."

For professional hunters, the postponed or cancelled hunts also mean a loss of income.

"The World Cup has had a very negative effect," said Philip Dixie, 41, a professional hunter at Blaauwkrantz after helping his satisfied client take down the zebra stallion.

"We've got basically two months of no hunting. For myself, a professional hunter, that's a loss of income. It's serious for us."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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BLAAUWKRANTZ SAFARIS, South Africa – Snapping dry twigs, muffled footsteps and hushed whispers are the only sound as the hunters stalk a herd of zebra in the thick South African bush.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010 06:57 AM
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