Conservation through trophy-hunting records

Richard Flack, son of well-known hunter Peter Flack and marketing director of the publisher Rowland Ward, gives an overview of the publisher’s title Records of Big Game, and its spirit and conservation role in the modern hunting world.
Issue date: 30 May 2008

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I recently saw a sub-heading in a National Geographic news article for 15 March 2007 that reads as follows, “Trophy hunting can play an essential role in the conservation of African wildlife, according to a growing number of biologists.”

Trophy hunting in SA is big business and contributes significantly to the national economy. In a comprehensive study of hunting in South Africa in August 2005, Gerhard Damm, the publisher of African Indaba says, “I estimate the total revenue stream directly generated by hunting in to be in excess of R4,5 billion.”

Lifeblood of a culture
I also saw another study by Michael Humavindu and Jonathan Barnes titled Trophy hunting in the Namibian economy: an assessment.It reached the following conclusions for the 2000 Namibian hunting season. Some 3 640 trophy hunters spent 15 450 hunter-days to take 13 310 game animals.

rophy hunting generated at least N4 million (R135 million) in direct expenditure or gross output. Additional value directly attributable to the industry was conservatively estimated at some N million (R63,5 million).

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Trophy hunting, constitutes at least 14% of the total tourism sector and is a significant component of the Namibian economy. Around 24% of this income accrued to poor segments of society in the form of wages, rentals and royalties. About 21% of income generated was paid to the government, as fees and taxes, making trophy hunting an important contributor to development. The number of overseas hunters visiting Namibia has almost doubled since 2000, a result of active marketing by the Namibian government.

Given the publisher Rowland Ward’s 114-year history of documenting developments in the hunting industry, particularly recording trophy animals based on specific criteria (see box: Rowland Ward’s minimum requirements), we felt it appropriate to tackle the question: what is the importance of trophy recording and why should we bother to record trophies?

When I was a young hunter – I shot my first game animal, a fallow deer, when I was 12 years old on our family farm in the Karoo – I heard my father speak with reverence, if not awe, of Rowland Ward’s title Records of Big Game. A Ward-recorded kudu was a thing to be admired, even envied.

The man or woman who shot it was considered very lucky indeed. It was the stuff of fireside stories and pub anecdotes for years to come.t the time I didn’t understand the significance and didn’t appreciate why my father insisted on entering his trophies into the book. Now, I understand why.

A record of legend
My father took a long time to understand the t
rue purpose of the book and the use to which it could be put by hunters and conservationists. He was concerned with the abominable excesses and the extreme competition among hunters, much like the following quote from Dieter Schramm, president of Conseil International de la Chasse (CIC), the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, “Of course, we also want to ‘record’ the result of the sustainable hunting harvest – but the hunters need to redefine the innocent word ‘record trophy’, since it’s unfortunately perceived now with a very negative image in non-hunting circles.

“Abominable excesses, such as the artificial manipulation of semi- or fully domesticated so-called game animals, with homunculus horns or antlers, to be released on shooting-preserves for the executioner’s rifle in Europe, New Zealand and North America, or the soon-to-be-abandoned practice of canned lion shooting in South Africa, must be exposed as what they are. They are neither wildlife management, nor hunting – and the horns and antlers obtained there cannot be hunting trophies!”

Over the years, my father taught me what he has learnt and he now enters all our trophies into the book. As Rowland Ward himself said 116 years ago, “My object in producing this book is to start a record of horn measurements of the great game of the world. I only regret that I didn’t commence it at an earlier date as it would then have been much more complete.”

Conservation value
Yes, that’s right, the book is not there to establish records in the sense of the biggest or best, or to glorify the hunter. It celebrates the animal and it doesn’t matter whether the animal’s horns, teeth, tusks or skull were picked up in the veld when it died of natural causes, or if it was shot by a hunter. The animals are ranked in sequence from largest to smallest, but not numbered, and no awards are given for any animal which qualifies for entry into the book.

My father and I often wish we had understood all this earlier. The book is for hunters and conservationists. The more people who enter accurate details of all the animals they shoot, or find dead in the veld, the better the tool becomes. In fact, we owe it to future generations to do just this.

Clearly, if the horn measurements of game in a particular area are increasing over time, it indicates that the conservation practices in that region are sound and it should be a good place to hunt. The converse is also probably true. The book has now been published on the company’s new website ( in electronic format, so that people can have access to this valuable research tool, as well as to the other information it contains. This includes the distribution of game, taxonomic features and historical, geographical and biological data which few other sources can match.

The following quote from Dieter further substantiates the above points, “The reduction of the individual and very personal value of hunting trophies to score sheets with numbers is deplorable. In fact, trophy mania destroys our hunting culture and makes a mockery of our traditions. I state this as president of the CIC, an organisation which gained acknowledgment over many decades through its formulas for trophy scoring. The CIC has never shied from assuming responsibility, therefore we address the issues connected with the misuse of scoring systems by some.

We consider the recording of trophies and the respective databases as conservation tools to show the value of sustainable and regulated hunting.Within this trophy philosophy we place emphasis on bio-indicators and good wildlife management practices, large antlers or horns of a mature trophy are the natural result of a vibrant game population. Within this philosophy we also need to publicly recognise that the often cited “representative” trophy, and not the occasional “world’s record” or the few exceptionally high-scoring ones, are the normative of the mentioned indicators.”

Contact Rowland Ward publishers at (011) 646 9888, visit or e-mail [email protected]. |fw