Namibia becoming hotspot for hunters

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It's easy to figure out that Danie Strauss isn't from around here.

Danie Strauss, a professional hunter from Namibia, visited friends and clients in Augusta last week to discuss 2008 hunting and photographic safari prospects in his native country in Africa. Tourism is its fastest growing industry.  Special
Special
Danie Strauss, a professional hunter from Namibia, visited friends and clients in Augusta last week to discuss 2008 hunting and photographic safari prospects in his native country in Africa. Tourism is its fastest growing industry.

"The other day, leaving my driveway, I almost hit a cheetah -- and there were 26 warthogs on the side of the road," he said.

Strauss, a professional hunter from Namibia, visited Augusta last week to spend some time with friends and clients -- and to offer advice to Americans interested in planning their first safari.

Namibia, he said, includes some of Africa's most diverse and abundant wilderness, where hunters can pursue game such as kudu, oryx, eland, wildebeest and other antlered wildlife.

"We shoot animals that have lived their life, they are mature and they will make a quality trophy," he told local hunters during a meeting at the home of one of his Augusta clients, Robert Hagler. "We are also the only African country with minimum sizes."

As a "professional hunter," Strauss is mainly a guide and outfitter, and a past president of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association, which maintains standards for game conservation and harvest programs.

Unlike the U.S., where all game and fish are the property of the state, Namibian law holds that game is the property of the landowner.

Such rules, adopted 30 years ago, encourage more conservation programs because landowners have more of a stake in the surrounding wildlife, Strauss said.

Consequently, wildlife populations on private lands have increased more than 80 percent since 1967 and revenues from hunting and photographic safaris make up an ever-growing portion of Namibia's economy.

Strauss' 15,000-acre property is called Kowas Adventure Safaris.

Although game is abundant, it doesn't make hunting any simpler.

"It's real, it's wild and it's tough," he said. "Expect to walk a lot. You're going to work for your trophies."

Namibia, he said, is twice the size of Texas with a population of just 2 million people.

"It has one of the world's lowest densities. In a 14-day stay, you will not see a car or hear another person," he said. "You will see, easily, 150 animals per day."

There are about two-dozen species that can be hunted on a safari, ranging from antlered wildlife to zebras, cheetahs and ostrich. Visitors also have the opportunity to hunt upland birds that resemble pheasants as well as cast for tigerfish and other species.

Many visitors, Strauss said, also visit nearby Etosha National Park, home to 114 mammals and more than 350 bird species.

"There is a lot to do," he said.

Most hunting safaris cost at least $5,000, excluding airfare, and those costs can increase depending on the number and rarity of the species hunted. Taxidermy and shipping of trophies also can increase costs.

Although clients mainly hunt for trophy animals to mount, all meat is either eaten, sold or donated to charitable groups or local schools.

"Nothing goes to waste," Strauss said. Although Namibia has many industries -- including diamond mining -- tourism is the country's fastest growing industry, partly because of interest from American hunters.

"In 1994 we had 73 American visitors, and now we have about 2,400 every year," he said.

The biggest percentage of Namibia's hunting clients are Germans, but Americans are close behind and slowly closing the gap.

"It is almost equal now," he said. "My prediction is that this year or next year, America will become the biggest clientele."

More information on Strauss' Kowas Ranch and hunting opportunities in Namibia are available at www.huntinamibia.com.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

BEFORE YOU GO

Here are some tips for planning an African safari:

- Expect to hunt seven to 10 days and pre-select the species you want to hunt

- Center-fire rifles are mandatory and calibers of .270 or larger are recommended

- Prepare by practice shooting long distances with shooting sticks and other devices

- Budget extra funds to ship trophies home and pay for taxidermy

- Hunting seasons run from Feb. 1 to November, but the coolest weather is May through July

- Book flights before confirming hunt dates

- When shopping for airfare, compare costs of flying direct from the U.S. with other routes, such as changing planes in Europe

- Have a valid passport and check firearms all the way to the country of destination

- Select a certified outfitter and contact multiple references

Source: Kowas Adventure Safaris


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