Namibia elephant hunter: ‘We do it because we love them’


Alex Crawford, SKY News

Date Published


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A professional hunter and his client broke down in tears after needing seven shots to kill an elephant they had spent four days tracking.

Sky News joined Jofie Lamprecht on a trophy hunt in the north of Namibia after two years of trying to get permission.

His American client had paid for permits to hunt in three conservancies in the Zambezi Region – over woodland savannah with some open flood plains as well as thick forest near the Chobe river.  

He wanted to hunt a range of animal including buffalo, zebra and leopard, but his priority was elephant.

“We will be hunting very selectively,” Mr Lamprecht told Sky News, “We will only hunt old or mature elephant bulls that have bred already and are near the end of their life.”

He told us we might have to follow the tracks of around 100 elephants.

It took four days of following elephant spore and tracks before he settled on one set which he hoped would be appropriate.

“This is a big track and its in a herd of about 30 bulls,” he said. “It’s potentially very good.”

When we finally caught up with the herd, one old bull was singled out. The drawback for the client was it only had one tusk, the left one had broken off.

“It’s got to be the biggest bull we’ve seen all year,” Mr Lamprecht reassured him.

They stood watching the elephants eating just 30 metres away, silent and unmoving.

The aim was to kill the animal with one bullet – a quick death – but it didn’t quite work out that way.

The client fired the first shot and it struck the animal on the shoulder. Mr Lamprecht followed up with another shot which, he thought, struck its leg.

The animals reared up in startled fright, bellowing. The professional hunter let out a roar and the elephants backed up and ran.

The injured bull broke off on his own – and the hunters followed in close pursuit.

“This is not what I would have wanted,” Mr Lamprecht said. “Now it is even more dangerous because the animal is wounded and frightened and they can become very aggressive. But we must find him.”

“To put him out of his pain?” I ask. “Yep,” is the reply.

More than four hours later we catch up with the wounded animal, but it takes a further seven shots to finish him off.

The last one is carried out by the client kneeling just feet away. “Shoot him between the ears,” Mr Lamprecht shouts. He seems anxious to end it now.

Afterwards, both professional hunter and his client are in tears.

“We do it because we love them,” Mr Lamprecht said.

His client is propped up against the elephant carcass, tears running down his face. He can hardly talk, he is so overcome.

The hunt came as Namibia – along with South Africa and Zimbabwe – fights for the right to trade in raw ivory, despite a far more drastic reduction in African elephant numbers than previously thought.

The Great Elephant Census, conducted by Paul G Allen’s Vulcan Inc, found a decline of 30% in populations in 18 countries in just seven years – between 2007 and 2014. That is the equivalent of one elephant dying every 15 minutes.

From Saturday, African countries will meet for the CITES gathering – or to give it its full title, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – to try to thrash out a way forward in order to save the elephant.

A group of 29 countries, under the banner of the African Elephant Coalition, wants a permanent ban on the international trade in elephant ivory.

But authorities in Namibia, in particular, are railing against the ban because their elephant numbers are increasing.

They also fervently believe their emphasis on trophy hunting as a business ensures the animals have a value which reduces the incentive for locals to take part in poaching or killing for meat.

The latest government statistics indicated the contributions from trophy hunting to be around the $70m mark.

The money is used to create jobs – usually in the hunting or tourism business, such as support staff in lodges, trackers, and trainee hunters or rangers.

The meat from the elephant is distributed to the communities living nearby.

Half an hour after Sky News witnessed the elephant being killed, crowds of villagers arrived armed with machetes and knives to skin the animal and cut up the meat.

The head and tusks are loaded onto the back of a pick-up and taken away to be secret location where the ivory will be guarded until it can be cleaned up and shipped to the American’s home.

The rest of the animal is butchered over several hours, loaded onto the back of three other pick-up trucks and we accompany one to be dropped off at a village community.

By this time, it is dark. But the villagers are waiting outside excitedly.

“This is the first time we have had protein in a year,” one said.

Mr Lamprecht said: “We tracked this elephant past a village.

“No-one in the village will harm him because they know this is the hunting industry which is helping them – providing jobs, work, wealth and food.

“Its called sustainable conservation and Namibia is a model for the rest of the world. We are helping our elephants survive this way. We put a value on them which means the whole population is anxious to preserve them. It’s working here.”

It is a controversial argument – and one which is going to be difficult to win.