Mark Haldane – When I started in the Delta in 1994, the area had game but it wasn’t plentiful. While the war had decimated the larger animals, the smaller animals were saved as the local population had moved into the towns for safety. Animals like Livingston’s Suni, Red Duiker & Reedbuck were pretty common.
The larger animals, Nyala, Sable, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Eland and Zebra were in bad shape.
The Delta Buffalo count was down to 1200. During the war, the larger game was plundered by the military on both sides. Unconfirmed stories of Russian gunships shooting herds of Buffalo and slinging them out to canning ships are common, whether true or not I cannot say. However one way or another, the Buffalo numbers went from 45 000 prior to the war in the early 1970s down to 1200 in 1994, and the Waterbuck from 80 000 down to about 2500.
HELPING THE COMMUNITY
- Around 2001 we started a meat distribution program, and of the animals we shot, choice cuts were taken for camp, the balance was split, 50% went to our staff and 50% went to the local community.
- We took this one step further and campaigned government to issue a community quota of the more common animals. Today that quota sits at 50 Reedbuck and 1 Buffalo. We shoot this on their behalf and deliver the whole animal to them.
- In more recent years through the help of a very kind client, we built a school and teachers’ houses, as well as water wells for the dry season.
- A mobile corn mill is another of our efforts to assist and retain good relationships. It has to be a two way street. If our unit arrests poachers from a particular village, we meet with the elders and discuss the issue, the norm being for the village’s meat allocation and milling privileges to be suspended for a few months.
- Recently we have had poachers come and hand in their own traps for reward; they claim it isn’t worth the risk of being caught and risking the village’s privileges.
OVER THE YEARS
- The habitat in the Delta is exceptional, Coutada 11 being a relatively small area (a million acres) with swamp, flood plain, tropical savannah, miombo woodland and sand forest. This diversity really lends itself to prime game country.
- Slowly we saw the game coming back. With it came pressure from local bush meat traders. Buffalo were largely spared but the smaller animals were definitely under threat.
- Initially anti-poaching was conducted by our resident PH and the trackers during their spare time, but as things progressed we found the need to have a full time unit.
- Our first unit consisted of 5 rangers, 2 whom we sent for training at Gorongosa National Park and who became and still are our section leaders today. The unit was made up of local residents, all ex-poachers.
- A salary (which most had never received in their lives) and an elevation in status amongst the local community made them take their job seriously. They were deployed on a daily basis by the resident PH and normally targeted an area where they spent up to 3 days, arresting poachers and taking out snares and gin traps. They were effective not in stopping the poaching outright but certainly in suppressing it.
- In around 2008 our game numbers exploded. I think a combination of our presence in the area, good community relationships and of course the anti-poaching all helped.
Pictures often say it better than words!
Mark is passionate about Wing Shooting. Mark started Bird Hunters Africa and has run it for the past 29 years. Guiding bird shooting safaris with his ever-present gun dogs is a personal favourite. In 1986 Mark received his Professional Hunters and Outfitters License. Together with a great support team they built up Game Hunters Africa, Bird Hunters Africa, Zambeze Delta Safaris, and Cameroon Hunting Adventures to where they are today. Mark has guided in South Africa, Botswana, Cameroon, Namibia, Tanzania, Canada, Romania, Alaska, Uganda, Australia and New Zealand. Highlights of his career are a 47inch Buffalo, 80lb Elephant, 18.5inch Bushbuck as well as the # 1 Suni and Red Duiker with a handgun.
Glen Haldane started hunting professionally in 1997. He has been fortunate to guide in most of the Southern African countries as well as Tanzania, Canada, Alaska, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand and Romania. Glen is known for taking care of details and for having lots of patience. Apart from guiding in all our hunting areas, Glen runs the South African, Botswana and our new Northern Mozambique operations. His highlights are the #1 Suni in Mozambique with a rifle and he has taken some excellent Nyala over the years and hunting the forest Buffalo of Mozambique is one of his passions. Glen is a partner in Game Hunters Africa and our Mozambique operation with Mark, and together they run the family operated business. Together with Mark and Mike Currie he is also a partner in Cameroon Hunting Adventures.
Our unit Now consists of a 22 man unit with Craig Windt as their full time leader and coordinator.
We have a 12 month presence in the area. Craig is passionate about “His unit” and his passion has rubbed off on his rangers. New tactics and plans are discussed on a daily basis. Ambushes are set and areas patrolled. The poachers now more than ever know, if you poach in Coutada 11, there is a big chance you are going to be caught. Craig’s unit is mobile and have a land cruiser and a Bike squad. Our motor bike unit is a quick reaction unit. It consists of 5 bush bikes with 4 rangers and Craig. They are able to follow foot paths and access areas that you can normally only get to on foot. They are also able to cover a very big area in a day. Another advantage of this unit is that if a PH sees any sign of poaching he can radio in and within 30 minutes the unit can be deployed. The rest of the unit do daily foot patrols and frequently set ambushes primarily targeting the routes used to take the meat out of the area. In addition to salaries, the rangers receive a reward for each ginn trap brought in (about 50% of the street value). We now see less and less of these cruel devices.