Now in our fourth season of partnering with Gunwerks, the leader in long-range shooting, we at John X Safaris are looking forward to an exciting 10 days of hunting starting as of tomorrow. This year will be a great combination of father and sons, as well as excited first timers to Africa. Joining Gunwerks owner, Aaron Davidson, will be his boys, Danner and Derrec, some old friends and Gunwerks customers, Sultin Kawarit, Mark Simpson, Paul Baird, John Benbow, Bob Phillips, Todd Gardener with sons, John, James, and Todd Jr.

In total, hunters will have the opportunity to hunt over 25 species, ranging from the tiny Blue Duiker to the giant Cape Eland. Long range enthusiasts can expect various challenges from each area, with exciting setups and even greater shots on a daily basis. The hunt will once again be filmed for Gunwerks Long Range Pursuit on the Sportsman Channel.

This year we will be combining our renowned trophy hunting with a large cull quota, giving the guys some serious shooting time on the guns. For those interested in daily updates can feel free to join us on our John X Safaris Facebook page. We will be posting news and pictures of our safari as often as possible.

Opportunities in Africa are like nowhere else on earth – get ready to be amazed by the sheer number of animals, size of the hunting areas, and beauty of Africa.


We’re off on safari – Catch you in a couple of weeks time!

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website.

By Paul Brisso

When I booked my third safari with Carl van Zyl of John X Safaris for April of 2016, I had two primary objectives in mind.  First and foremost, I wanted Carl to help me introduce my wife Teresa on her first safari to the wonders and experience that makes Africa such a special place. And along the way, I wanted to hunt some animals that I had either not had the opportunity to hunt, or that had eluded me on my prior four trips to southern Africa.

Among these was the Cape Bushbuck.  Although a relatively common animal in much of southern Africa, my first two safaris in Namibia were too far north and west for Cape Bushbuck.  On my first safari with Carl and John X Safaris in South Africa several years before, we came up empty-handed after being outwitted by an exceptional Bushbuck.

On that previous safari, Bushbuck was fairly low on the priority list, to the point where we did not target it until late in the safari.  But on the last morning of the hunt we thought the hunting gods were going to be kind to us.  Glassing from a low ridge, we spotted a great ram feeding below our view-point following two females.  Dropping into the bottom, we worked our way towards the three shy animals, moving slowly and carefully to intercept them.

Everything seemed to go perfectly according to plan.  Mid to late morning we had worked into a location where we had a clear view of an opening along their route.  We set up on the shooting sticks, anticipating they would enter the lane about 80 yards away.  After 10-15 minutes, the first female fed into the clearing from our right, oblivious of our presence.  We could see glimpses of red-brown of the second female and the dark shades of the ram through the heavy brush.  After a few minutes, the second female fed into view, the ram would soon follow. Our excitement levels were building as we could still see glimpses of the ram though the brush heading our way.

“Get ready,” Carl whispered softly.  “Here he comes.”  He never did.  The two females continued feeding on contentedly through the clearing and back into the brush on the other side, oblivious to our much-anticipated ambush.  The ram apparently decided it was time to bed down and turned right, heading back in the direction he was coming from, never setting foot in the clearing.

We decided to pull out and return that evening, the last of our safari.  The wily and lucky old ram did not come out until almost very last light, and then he was too far away for us the get into position before darkness enveloped the bush.  We tipped our cap to our intended quarry and for years Carl and I have talked about the one that got away.

Photo 2013-09-16 3 50 57 AM

On my second safari with Carl we headed to Mozambique for Cape Buffalo a couple of years later, where Carl and I got a small measure of revenge on Bushbuck by taking a very nice Chobe Bushbuck on that particular hunt.  But our longing for the one that got away and the continual discussion of it saw our urge for an exceptional Cape Bushbuck grow even more. We made an agreement – The next time we hunted together in South Africa we would prioritize a Cape Bushbuck.

So for my 2016 safari Carl had instructed me to fly into East London, rather than Port Elizabeth, which is nearer to his home base of Lalibela, so that we could pursue Cape Bushbuck in some prime country along the wild coast. Prior to our arrival in East London, my wife and I spent an enjoyable week of viewing wildlife, touring, and adjusting to the time zone difference, before flying from Durban to East London to commence with our hunting. We had purchased the photo safari at the annual California Wild Sheep Foundation fundraiser the prior year, making for a relaxing week as we acclimatized to Africa.

Upon arrival in East London we were met at the airport by John X Safaris head PH, Greg Hayes, whom joined us for a fantastic late lunch at a café overlooking the Indian Ocean, before traveling the 45 minutes to camp at Mpotshane Game Reserve where we met up with Carl.  Since we had done a photo safari first, for the first time I had decided to travel to Africa without my own rifle and use one of Carl’s for the safari.  That afternoon we moved into our room, sighted in the rifle, and settled into the lodge for our first evening.

It rained that night and the weather was still unsettled in the morning, but after breakfast we headed out to an area we would be hunting Bushbuck.  We met up with the landowner and set out in search of a ram.  We had quite an entourage—in addition to Carl, Teresa and me, we had Jose Hernandez doing some video work for Carl, Carl’s tracker, Greg and his tracker, and the landowner.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

The country was ideal Bushbuck country—very steep and very thick with vegetation and very light hunting pressure.

There was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that had never seen a human.  On the other hand, there was no doubt there were Bushbuck on the property that was humanly impossible to see.


We covered a lot of country that morning and set up and glassed openings without success, other than a few females and one young ram.  The weather remained unsettled.  We were so close to Mpotshane that we decided to return for lunch, and then return again later in the afternoon. Sooner or later the weather would lift and the game would start moving.

By early afternoon the weather seemed to be clearing, and we crossed our fingers in the hope that the Bushbuck would be out and about.  We returned and commenced glassing from a spot we could see a substantial amount of country from.  The trackers had been placed on a couple of different points to glass, while the rest of us were together on a spot with a wide panorama.  There was so much country to glass, every set of binoculars focusing on far away ridges and gorges would increase our chances, but things remained slow.


With the two professional hunters, Jose, the landowner, and me glassing various areas, Teresa—on the first day of her first safari – calmly said “There’s one.”  She had spotted a ram in a small opening on a steep hillside about 250-300 yards away. It was precisely the break we were after. The cooler weather and scattered thunder showers had pushed the animals into the deep cover, but now that the sun was starting to make its appearance again, not even a weary old ram could resist a few warm rays.

Carl quickly confirmed it was not only a ram, but an exceptional ram. We quietly moved into a shooting position a little over 200 yards away across the canyon and I touched off the shot from the 300 Win Mag. As the shot rang out the ram immediately reacted. “You’ve hit him just perfect Paul!” Carl whispered excitedly; “Did you see him jump up into the air and somersault into the brush?” unfortunately I hadn’t seen all of this as the recoil of the gun had obscured my view for a couple of seconds, but that didn’t matter, my shot was true and all indications pointed towards a downed ram.


Man were we excited when we found him!

Tracking a wounded Bushbuck in that steep and heavily wooded country would have been a challenge beyond words.  Even so, with a confirmed downed ram we still needed a dog to help us find the animal in the thick brush.

Having found our ram was one thing, getting him out was another. Luckily for us we had a strong tracker, Bless, along to pack my ram out of the steep canyon.

With a feeling of content I watched on as Carl and the crew put together the final touches that would immortalize my trophy for the rest of my life. Pictures carry our stories beyond the adventures – Carl and his crew ensures that those pictures are always taken with the utmost care to capture that exact memory.


I had my Cape Bushbuck!

Back at Mpotshane that evening, we celebrated and toasted our first day success and the skill of our rookie game spotter with cocktails and another great dinner.  The next day we would move on in an attempt to locate what Carl termed “a right proper Eland.”  But that is an entirely different story for another day.

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website!


The month of May saw us welcome back many old faces, with some bringing along new friends to experience South Africa for the very first time. Others joined us for their annual hunt to the East Cape picking up the shooting sticks with old friends as if their previous safaris had never ended. While I am yet to meet a hunter who has not thoroughly enjoyed his safari with us,  nothing quite comes close to the compliment of a returnee. For that individual to choose John X Safaris as his/her choice destination for a second, third, fourth, and in some instances even 9th trip, speaks volumes louder than words.

Dave and Ruth Stark were back on their second hunt with Professional Hunter, Greg Hayes, looking to pursue another Kudu, and then complete their Springbuck slam. They headed up into a newly acquired concession, bagging a number of great animals along the way. Their Lechwe, Cape Eland, and Common Springbuck, proved to be certain highlights on their hunt, as well as the continues pursuit of the kind of Kudu Greg was after for Dave.

The rut was running late, and even with the best planning and optimum moon conditions the bulls just weren’t moving like they usually do at mid-May each year. Never the less Dave came out more determined each morning giving it his all. After having seen numerous shooters the Kudu gods finally won this round, but we are certain Dave will be back to give it another go in a couple of years time.


With the departure of the Stark’s we welcomed our old Spanish friends from Camino Real Hunting Consultants. Alvaro, Danny, and Roberto, had become great friends while hunting various destinations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Their passion for free-range mountain hunting in the wide expanses of the Great Karoo is what drew them to the East Cape on this particular hunt.


The top priority on this safari would be the manner in which they preferred to hunt. In saying this it wasn’t that it differed from our usual approach, but it took on a greater meaning once one understood their motto; “Don’t turn down what the mountain offers.” 

And they didn’t….

Klipspringer, Vaal Rhebuck, Mountain Reedbuck, and East Cape Kudu, hunted hard each day from dawn to dusk. Having experienced Tanzania previously, neither Danny or Roberto had envisaged the East Cape to offer the diversity and possibilities on free range game and the hunting thereof. With our multi-area greater conservancies in the Karoo we could offer them something they could never have experienced elsewhere in Africa.

With the main priority species having hit the salt we turned our attention to further free range opportunities in the north before heading back south to the coast for the final leg of our trip.

The entire hunt turned out to be a fantastic trip with three great guys, all sharing the same enthusiasm to hunt hard, never turning down what the hunting gods offered. All three were proven excellent marksman, making numerous unbelievable shots throughout their stay with us. But in the end it doesn’t matter how hard you hunt or how well you shoot – it all starts with the hunters attitude, which proved to be the biggest winner of all. Luck will naturally come to those who choose to have fun, but none more so than the luck of a Spaniard hunting two dream pigs within the space of 12 hours.

Felicidades cablleros! Que caceria la que disfrutamos con ustedes!

By the time late May arrived we eagerly awaited John and Lynn Nowlin’s arrival for their 2016 hunt, which would see them embark on their ninth trip with John X Safaris, a special feat for all involved. Having guided them throughout Southern Africa they decided it was time to return to the point of their original “first” experience of the dark continent. This time they would be after a couple of mountain dwellers, with the usual opportunistic favorites being their species of choice. Professional Hunter, Ed Wilson, once again led the hunt in what has become something of a tradition.


Having hunted a Vaal Rhebuck on a previous safari, the Nowlin’s were game for a second dual in the mountains. This time John hunted a challenging Klipspringer and this amazing 9″ Vaal Rhebuck.

Both John and Lynn made the most of their opportunities on Caracal over hounds, Impala, Cape Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and Warthog, but nothing could come close to the Eland they bumped into on their very last day.


For one to even start to comprehend the quality of this animal, one has start and end at the mop and dewlap on this once in a lifetime Cape Eland. While we hunt many great bulls each year – this one in particular will take some beating by the time our season gets wrapped up in late October. How fitting an end it proved to be on the Nowlin’s last day of their 9th hunt with John X Safaris. More deserving folks one cannot get – the harder they try, the luckier they keep getting…. the more often they come.

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website!


Looking towards the future, it is becoming more evident with each passing day, that without the involvement of the youth, our proud hunting heritage, stands to lose further ground. Gone are the days of SCI and Dallas Safari Club standing alone in carrying the torch of responsibility. While those organizations work relentlessly in their goals of involving the youth in hunting, it is up to us to do our part too.

If each one of us, who proudly claim to be passionate hunters, were to look back at that watershed moment when the penny dropped and you became a hunter, were to pin the period in your life that, that happened, the majority would surely point towards their younger years. When a father, uncle, older brother, or grand father, introduced you to this amazing past time and instilled the values of hunting. And it is with these fundamentals that we are proud to launch the John X Foundations’ initiative for 2016.



Our Foundation will be teaming up with Patrick Cairns from the Ithemba Trust, initiating a Junior Hunters Course for previously disadvantaged youth from our local impoverished communities.

The aim of this course is to encourage youngsters to get out to the great outdoors and to create a genuine love for outdoor activities and lifestyle. As such it aims to introduce nature, hunting, and conservation, to a part of our community that has never had the opportunity until now. While hunting is the focus, it will be within a conservation style setting and ethos. The course is open to both young ladies and gentlemen.

Orange Grove

The course will be held on the 2000 acre, Orange Grove Farm, outside Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape.  The property has wonderful camping facilities where the junior hunters will be based.

The emphasis of the course will be on acquiring practical skills on the following topics and activities –

  • Conservation – The Role Hunting Plays
  • Animal Identification
  • Hunter and Gun safety
  • Introduction to Ballistics
  • Introduction to Shooting
  • Basic Hunting Principals – Stalking and bullet placement.
  • Tracking skills – Track one of the big five – Buffalo
  • Archery
  • Survival skills
  • Judging Trophy Animals
  • Each child will be offered the opportunity to hunt their first Springbuck.
  • Gutting, Caping, and Skinning – Learning about the process where nothing goes to waste.
  • Camping
  • Night Drives

At the completion of the course, each participant will receive a tanned hide of his or her Springbuck hunted, kindly sponsored by Splitting Image Taxidermy.


John X Safaris will be sponsoring all the required clothing, equipment, and foot wear for the children, as well as assisting in transportation to and from Orange Grove. GTS Productions has come on board as to capture the entire experience on film for not only the participants, but the sponsors too, ensuring these first fond memories of hunting are immortalized forever.


The cost for the course is US $500 per kid covering:

  • Accommodation in canvas tents at Orange Grove Farm for four nights.
  • All meals, cool drinks, tea, coffee etc for the duration of the course.
  • Transportation throughout the course with 4X4 hunting vehicles.
  • All rifles and ammunition.
  • Instructors – Professional Hunters, Trackers, and Skinner’s.
  • The opportunity to hunt one Springbuck.


Having initially launched our Jr Hunters Course initiative during Thanksgiving 2015, it didn’t take long for the first mails to start trickling in. Many asked to have a couple of kids reserved for their sponsorship, while others planned to meet with Carl and Ross during Jan/Feb 2016 in the US.

Having met a number of you on our travels, it soon became evident how much we as hunters truly care. It’s one thing talking and saying all the right things, it’s a whole different story when fellow hunters step up to the challenge and sponsor the heck out of the initiative. At one stage both Ross and Carl had to push sponsorship over to 2017, as we had run out of spots for our 2016 course. It was like nothing they had ever experienced with the Foundation!

A special word of appreciation must go out to the sponsors of this inaugural Jr Hunters Course. Some of our sponsors did not want their names mentioned, as they didn’t want the recognition for their sponsorship. To them it was about the kids and the opportunities their funds could provide. While we respect their requests we cannot honor it. These are the true heroes among us – these are the people who need mentioning – no matter what they might tell you – without them this new initiative would not have happened. We salute and thank…

  • David & Mary-Lynn West
  • John Thompson
  • Bwana Big Jim & Chris Smith
  • Sam Cunningham


Together with Patrick we have secured and set a date for the course. The course will be held during our third quarter school vacation, from 4-8 October 2016. Trish, Ross, Patrick and Carl, have started the purchasing of equipment and supplies. There’s a lot more that goes into a course such as this than what one would think!

The selection process of eligible kids falling between the ages of 10/11 -15/16 years of age has started, with kids required to apply via a letter reasoning their interest in the course and why they feel they should be selected. Our trackers, camp staff, and all hunting areas staff children have been given first option on the first six spots on the course, with a further two being offered to PHASA(Professional Hunters Ass of SA).


Through PHASA’s Fund and its #HuntersCare initiative we felt we would challenge our competitors in the industry by offering these two spots to some of their interested staff members, seeing them benefit via this initiative in giving their children an opportunity to.

Between now and August we will complete the selection process of the kids, with further purchasing of supplies taking place on our monthly town runs.

We feel we’re onto something special here. Where this initiative may end up in years to come who knows? One thing is for sure, with your continued support we can do anything we set our minds on. Together we can bridge a gap for previously disadvantaged communities by developing a passion for wildlife and hunting in their children beyond the boundaries of their social background.

Let’s stand together and keep the rally of support going – We’re not just talking about doing the right thing – The hunters are doing it.

The John X Team & Foundation

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website!

There is always something special about guiding a youngster on his very first safari to Africa. The blank canvas so eagerly absorbing every detail thrown at it. The overload on the senses, trailing your every move, keenly taking on valuable lessons while shaping a life passion. With this too, comes a great responsibility as guide to ensure the correct principle of conservation and sustainable utilization are passed on to the next generation – ultimately the future custodians of our age old tradition of hunting.


Having witnessed Jon’s successful Cape Buffalo hunt last week, we now turn our focus and attention to his son, Ridge, as we see Africa through the eyes of a boy for the very first time.

Ridge’s willingness to learn and his eagerness to please impressed not only Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole, whom guided this father/son combo, but all in camp at the time of their hunt. From chasing the biggest bird in the world and wily Springbuck on the plains of the Great Karoo, to a monster Blesbuck, and experiencing the rugged brush of our coastal region with its abundance of game. Early mornings, action packed days, and quiet evenings around a crackling campfire made for one exciting adventure for this ten year old. Dad, Jon, of course made the most of a number of species too, with his Cape Buffalo, Kudu, and Gemsbuck being the certain highlights.

Enjoy this special edition film compiled by GTS Productions. Once you have viewed the video, then you too, just like we have, will realize what a privilege it is to be able to experience the great outdoors of Africa. Seeing the excitement and wonder on a young hunters’ face soaking up the experience and loving every minute out there will leave you reminiscing about your first dreams of Africa, reminding one of Richard Mullin’s famous quote; “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website!


During the month of April we hosted the father/son combination of Jon and Ridge who joined Professional Hunter Ross Hoole on their first hunt to Africa. Jon and his family had been on vacation to the Kruger National Park before heading to Cape Town to enjoy the cape and its magnificent surroundings. From Cape Town the girls flew home, while the guys headed north for their hunt with John X Safaris.

Picking up from Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole;”Jon and I had spoken somewhat about the possibility of taking a Buffalo. There were Cape Buffalo in the area we were hunting and an opportunity on a rogue bull had come up a couple of weeks earlier while hunting the same area.


This particular bull had headed on a “walk about”, leaving the 25000 acre reserve which formed part of its home range, into neighboring stock ranches. Naturally there was a level of concern, as an old “Dugga Boy”, usually grumpy by nature, would pose a serious threat to anyone crossing its path. We had decided that we would initially kick-off the safari as per the original plan with a number of plains game species, seeing how we progressed before deciding on the Buffalo.”

“Midway through the hunt with a number of good trophies in the salt, we got lucky with a heavy down poor of over-night rain. Muddy conditions the following morning made for perfect tracking conditions, so we decided to head out and look for the rogue bull whom had by this stage returned to his home range.”

“An early start saw our two trackers – Jimmy and Rudy head-off into the hills in different directions on the lookout for fresh tracks. The bull had been spotted in a particular gorge the previous afternoon, and with the overnight rain and stormy conditions we were hopeful that the he had not moved off to far. After a couple of hours searching for tracks, Jimmy called in over the radio, saying he had found fresh tracks and was following up on them. We moved in for a closer look, meeting up with Jimmy who had found two bulls bedded down below a rocky outcrop. It seemed that the old bull had picked up an accomplice since last he was spotted. Initially we could only see one of the bulls which definitely appeared to be a soft-boss immature bull – not what we were after. Not knowing if the second bull, which was still out of sight was the rogue Buffalo we were after, we decided to set up and wait…”

What a hunt it turned out to be, ending off proceedings in textbook perfect fashion. Having Jon’s son Ridge along on the hunt made an already special hunt even more so, with safety being the first priority, a natural concern for any parent pursuing the Big 5. Jon had gone head to head with the rogue bull coming away with one heck of an experience.IMG_2077

Next week we’re picking up on the trail with Jon’s son Ridge pursuing plains game in the Great Karoo. GTS Productions were along once again capturing the entire safari on film. Join us then for this not to be missed special 25 min edition of father and son experiencing Africa for the very first time – building lifetime memories through hunting.

For more information and current updates about John X Safaris; follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and visit our Website!


It’s Friday morning in South Africa – I’m home for a change – a rare privilege at this time of year. The last group of hunters left a couple of days ago and we won’t be heading off on safari for a couple more weeks.

With a steaming cup of coffee I see Kelly in her trusty Land Cruiser crossing the plain in front of my home. She’s been at it again; another all nighter – her commitment to these last four remaining Rhino is unwavering. The Cruisers headlights are dimmed by a layer of dust, similar to her weary eyes, she looks tired and worn out, but she’s smiling. Another night, another battle won, they’ve made it yet again – She sits and watches them with the enjoyment of a parent. She’s not alone, all over South Africa the same scene is playing out.

I slowly turn my attention to the day ahead, business will not stand still, I’d love to spend the rest of my morning observing these prehistoric looking creatures feeding a mere 60 yards from my office, but that privilege is not reserved for me – I have a job at hand. I form part of an important machine that allows those four Rhino and the rest of the game the opportunity to thrive in a rehabilitated ecosystem.

How that ecosystem and the wildlife that calls it home makes it each month is what drives us to rise before dawn each morning. It’s a privilege living in a place like this, but it’s a commitment few are willing to accept. This is not the “living happily ever after fairy tale” the armchair conservationist critic would believe it to be  – this is about accepting the challenge at hand.

As my phone rings, I realize it’s not even 6am, there’s only one person in the world that calls before six and that’s Dad. “Have you read the news?” A voice booms out over the line. You can bet he’s wanted to call since 4am, how he has managed to wait this long boggles my mind – patience is not his strong point. Or maybe it is? Maybe his lack of patience makes him who he is – a survivor. An entrepreneur with a passion for his family and wildlife. “Our government has decided to drop its international Rhino horn trade application to CITES 2016”, he continues. The line goes silent. What else can we say? We’re both at a loss for words. Where to now? What will happen to our Rhino? To the rest in Southern Africa?

For the record…


There are +~ 20 000 White Rhino and 4000 Black Rhino left in the world today. Since 2008 illegal poaching has killed at least 5,940 Rhinos in Southern Africa. Let that sink in for a couple of minutes. 

Rhino poaching is currently at a crisis point. By the end of 2015, the number of African Rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 Rhinos killed by poachers across Africa. These statistics were compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).

South Africa has by far the largest population of Rhinos in the world and is an incredibly important country for Rhino conservation. However Rhino poaching levels have dramatically escalated over recent years. The below graph shows the exponential increase in poaching from 2007 – 2015. 

SA RP Stats

Above: Graph showing South African Rhino poaching statistics using data published by South African Department of Environmental Affairs (2016)

Although it is encouraging to see South Africa’s poaching levels fell slightly, poaching losses are still extremely high. There were 40 fewer Rhinos killed in 2015 than in 2014, but that in itself is statistically insignificant when you’re talking such large numbers of poaching deaths.

Worryingly, the crisis has spread to neighboring countries in southern Africa, with Namibia and Zimbabwe experiencing an exponential increase in poaching. During 2015, Namibia lost 80 Rhinos to poaching, up from 25 in 2014 and just two in 2012. In Zimbabwe, it is reported that at least 50 Rhinos were poached last year, more than double the previous year. For Africa as a whole, the total number of Rhinos poached during 2015 was the highest in two decades.

The current poaching crisis is attributed to the growing demand for Rhino horn in Asian countries, mainly Vietnam and China. Vietnam has been identified as the largest user country of Rhino horn. Although Rhino horn has no scientific medical benefits, consumers are using it to treat a wide range of conditions, from cancer to hangovers, and due to its high value it is now also used as a status symbol by wealthy individuals. The high price fetched for the horn has attracted the involvement of ruthless criminal syndicates making poaching their primary business. 

How did we get here?

Since Dr. Ian Player started his efforts of bringing the Rhino back from the very brink of extinction with “Operation Rhino” in the early 1950’s, a couple of things have remained constant. 

  1. Private ownership of Rhino has been their saving grace since day one. 
  2. Poaching at some level or another has always been present. 

From day one Dr. Ian Player was of the belief that the South African farmer is one of the hardiest individuals under the sun. Give them a briefing on the process, create an incentive of reward, and you’ll be well on your way to success. Within 30 years the Dr had his wish and before we knew it, we had built an entire industry around the Rhino. May the choice have been hunting, farming, or ecotourism – an industry was born around one man’s vision and the commitment of a large sector of our rural community. 

Laws and protocols were developed and put in place to protect the well-being of the animals as to ensure the industry would be regulated at an acceptable standard going forward. 

In all this time poaching was taking place, not at the levels we’ve been exposed to today, but it was always there. The fact that those poached numbers were so insignificant in comparison to the growth of the industry kept most of that information at bay. No one was willing to rock the boat. The Rhino population was thriving, the National Parks were sitting with excess and the private sector had bought into this new concept of ecotourism and hunting. Foreigners flocked to our shores to view and hunt our Rhino – all of course within the legal parameters set out by our South African Nature Conservation and CITES. 


The 90’s and early 2000’s were the big years for not only our Rhino, but our businesses too. We all expanded and grew – we took bigger risks than ever before and overextended ourselves even more – we all enjoyed the ride, nobody more so than our Rhino population who now had doubled their habitat from 20 years previously. It was a win/win. 

We had created a mega industry around the Rhino, our farmers had done well, they were good, in fact possibly too good. Numbers grew and even more became involved in Rhino – it became part of our national pride and success, but unfortunately with all the good we drew some unwanted attention too. Soon the poaching world put one and one together – there was a $ to be made. One with limited risk and more rewarding than a bank robbery. The chances of being caught were minimal, and even if you were caught the sentencing proved to be marginal to light. 

With the poachers gaining momentum the farmers started thinking out of the box once again. They had brought the Rhino back from the brink of extinction, and then created a sustainable industry that saw them being rewarded handsomely, why would they quit now? They got creative and started Green Hunting. This allowed a larger part of the industry to get involved as the clash between hunting and ecotourism came together, meeting in the middle.  We could now not merely derive value from our Rhino through hunting, live sales, and ecotourism, we could offer an experience that was acceptable to a larger part of society.

An experience was created, with the benefit of seeing the Rhino walk off to live another day after the enthusiastic foreigner had tracked, darted, and woken his/her Rhino. This was a new twist to our industry – we were once again counterbalancing our losses to the rising poaching issue. 

Then the poachers got serious and 2009 arrived. The world went into a recession and so too did the world of the Rhino and the private Rhino owner. The domestic trade in Rhino horn, much of it derived from the Green Hunting industry was placed under moratorium until further notice. Green Hunting was banned that very next year due to a flaw in our South African law, the Veterinary council had their say, and soon the constant revenue stream was shut down. 

Social media took on a new meaning as the world started to recover from the recession it had endured for five years. No longer was Face Book, Twitter or the likes of many others a means of social communication and sharing, it became a weapon to topple empires, overthrow governments, create awareness for both good and bad, and influence opinion. This now affected the Rhino too. With the Rhino horn trade moratorium in place, an escalating poaching issue at hand, ecotourism battling to recover from a recession hangover and hunting taking center stage for the various anti groups – the world of Rhinos became increasingly expensive and complicated. 

A dead Rhino was now worth more than a live Rhino. No longer could horn be harvested to trade or green hunting be used as a form of income. Any form of hunting was placed under a massive spotlight on social media, and ecotourism was feeling the pinch too. South Africa’s honeymoon was over; FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010 had created an artificial economy before and after the tournament. The world had gotten excited by South Africa, it had flocked in its numbers to our shores once again, but by 2013 the recession was very much with us. Africa’s reputation of being two to three years behind the rest of the world was proving to be the case once again. In all this time our Rhino were bleeding on the ground and the men and women on the front line were pouring even more effort and funds into their protection. Something would give sooner or later. 

The hunting of Rhino was becoming more and more expensive, yet this and ecotourism was our only option. Public opinion was finding it harder and harder to understand how the hunting of Rhino could save their numbers. To them the poaching was responsible for enough losses to the greater population as is, how could the hunting of another Rhino possibly save the specie? What they failed to understand and refuse to accept is the fact that this was an industry that could not afford to close shop for a single day. National Parks and Ecotourism destinations had increased their numbers to the point of off-take. Without the hunters and new game ranches/reserves buying excess Rhino, prices for the commodity would tumble and soon poaching escalation would outweigh the net growth per annum. The Rhino industry was in danger of losing the interest of the private sector, the very one that had brought it back from the brink. 


But then they threw us a bone. The state called on the private sector to assist in the preparation of an application to propose the regulated international trade of Rhino horn at CITES 2016. This gave hope where all else was lost, and yet again the private sector bought into this concept. Renewed spending took place to protect our Rhino even more. Efforts were doubled by the various stakeholders, we looked past the fact that the ongoing poaching was draining us to a point beyond belief and anymore money poured into a bottomless pit was surely insanity – the old principle of Dr Player was back – reward the farmer and he’ll make a success of anything. We all bravely marched on in a glimmer of hope – reward would soon be ours and that of the Rhino. 

In all this time we started believing more and more in the possibility of a regulated International Trade. Back home in South Africa, our very own private game farmers, John Hume and Johan Kruger, had taken the State to court over their constitutional right to trade horn domestically. The lawsuit cost them millions, but in September 2015 the high court ruled in their favor – they had won. We rejoiced in their efforts, sure that it would be the watershed moment that would open further doors to securing the future of our Rhino industry. Our celebrations were short-lived; domestic trade was hardly given the opportunity to prove its worth as a possible future for the industry, when the State appealed the ruling, placing domestic trade of horn once again under moratorium.

We entered 2016 knowing this would have to be the year that would finally see our fortunes change in the Rhino industry. Very few industries to date had been tested to this extend. No domestic rancher would have marched on in the same hope after a sheep, goat, or cow. Yet the Rhino owners continued on, CITES 2016 would be held in South Africa – you couldn’t blame us for thinking the stars were starting to align in our favor. And then 21 April 2016 arrived – mere months prior to the convention.

Where to now with our Rhinos?

As I sit trying to convey my feeling of hopelessness in my words I turn to a letter received from Dr Peter Oberem, a fellow Rhino owner. 

“Thursday 21 April 2016 will go down in history as a sad day for our country and for the world. In fact, it will be remembered as a devastating day for the rhino as a species. This shocking decision will spell the end of this iconic and beloved animal. It is a devastating day, especially for the very people who have, over the past 50 years, already contributed so much to saving the rhino from extinction, as well as its continued growth and protection. It is a decision that is celebrated only by rhino poachers, those that harbor, support and protect them, and those few vociferous, ill-informed and misguided animal rightist who actively fought for this decision.

Those who have contributed their money, sweat, tears, blood and – yes – their lives for the cause feel betrayed by those who have been charged by their positions to protect the species. They will feel their efforts have been ignored and brushed aside for some as yet unfathomable reason. The voice of those who have made such a difference and who cherish, hold and protect between one-third and one half of the rhino in the world has been drowned out by those who are so often armchair conservationists and who in reality contribute little to protecting the species on the ground.

To date, all efforts to stem the tide of death have come to nought. The only people who benefit from this decision – and the decades of selfless effort to build Rhino populations – are the poachers and their protectors. The sole beneficiaries of this illegal trade worth more than R6 billion per annum are the poachers and other involved criminals.

As of today, the price of Rhino will fall and the price of Rhino horn will rise, increasing the differential between a live Rhino and a dead one – worth only a few hundred thousand alive but up to R8 million dead. It is an unsustainable and untenable situation. What incentive is there other than love of the animal for one to spend money, shed tears and blood, and offer up one’s life to protect it? Where do the protectors of the rhino get the ever-increasing resources needed to counter the growing threat against them and the animals they love and guard?

In addition, through this decision, our country, its people and conservation have missed a unique opportunity. Well controlled, legal trade would create and sustain 11 rural jobs for every Rhino in the country at the minimum wage for an agricultural worker in rural communities and  on game ranches (220 000 decent jobs in total). This R6,6 billion would go a long way towards footing the security bill for these operations and ensuring the survival of the rhino as a

Over and above this, the government would earn another R6,6 billion from their share of the income, which could be used to protect Rhino and contribute to other conservation projects in the national and provincial parks – a situation far better than all this possible foreign-exchange income landing solely in the coffers of the criminal and corrupt, as is the situation currently perpetuated by the announced decision.

This decision flies in the face of logic, which tells us that what is needed is simply to increase the risk to the poacher and reduce his benefits. This decision has achieved exactly the opposite effect. Winston Churchill said “those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it” paraphrasing Einstein, who said that making the same mistake over and over again “is insanity”. It seems we have not learnt. Are we insane? “

There is nothing else to be said. Neither I nor Dad can think of another way out as of this stage. We are both hunters and yet the critic will question our feeling of remorse of the current situation. We have bred, we have protected, we have hunted, we have lost, and we have given our everything to our Rhino. We have not done so in order to rise each morning to count the wealth we may have derived through our Rhino, truth be told, we are so far behind on the eight ball, that their monetary value left the building many years ago.

So you may ask why? Why would we continue forth on such a hapless business module? Every person in this world wakes to ensure his job or business reaps rewards at the end of each day, realizing full well not every sector of his business will be as productive as the other. We accept those same principles, BUT …


We do it for our kids.

If you have ever had the privilege of sitting in the middle of a crash of Rhino, and observed the joy and pleasure those animals bring to your children, then you my friend will understand where we’re coming from.

It was the Rhino industry that allowed us that simple pleasure, and in turn provided the Rhino the opportunity to return from the brink of extinction.

2004 117

Surely we cannot ignore history at such a critical point.

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