Unlike other awards, which determine a winner based on criteria such as species counts and trophy sizes, the Selous Award is fundamentally based on a single criterion â€“ a passion for African hunting.
One cannot quantify passionâ€¦..instead one can only feel it and experience it. As a result, there is no better group of people to choose a winner for this award than the people who live, breath and, sometimes, even die for the African hunt. These people are the African PHs themselves.
Finally, I would like to say something about the award itself. With the help of world renowned artist, TD Kelsey, who is an avid African hunter and honorary member of the APHA, we have created an award that embodies what the concept of the Selous Award is all about. Rather than focusing on our quarry, it captures a scene that epitomizes the African hunt. Before the night is over, I suggest you try and catch a glimpse of it. It is a truly magnificent piece of art and only 10 castings will ever be made of this award.
And now fellow hunters, it is truly my honour to announce that the PHs of the African Professional Hunters Association have chosen the first ever winner of Selous Award to be ---- Mr. Peter Flack.
Normally this is the time when accolades are showered upon the recipient and their accomplishments are listed one after the other. However, as I explained earlier, achievement is not what this award is about. This award is about what is in hereâ€¦.your heart. And Peter, I cannot think of a more worthy winnerâ€¦. congratulations.â€
What can I say but that this has been the cherry on top of the cream on top of the cake. When you have a look at the APHA 2016 guide, view their membership, the cream of professional hunters in Africa â€“ their president is the former president of France, Giscard Dâ€™estaing - note the strong stance they have taken early on against canned killings and the intensive breeding and domestication of wildlife to produce animals with exaggerated horn lengths and unnatural colour variants, you know this is an organisation any hunter would be proud to belong to. For me to receive an award such as this, from the men and women I admire most in the African hunting fields, is something I will always cherish. All I have to do now is to work out how to pay for TDâ€™s brilliant statue!
My ninth and probably last, consecutive, annual hunt for an elusive, plus 30 inch common nyala, said to be hiding under every second tree in Mocambiqueâ€™s sand forests in the Zambezi Delta, was as disappointing as my previous yearâ€™s hunt for Livingstoneâ€™s eland in Mocambiqueâ€™s Niassa National Reserve was delightful. If I compare the two hunts they were almost diametrically opposite. This time my entry and exit from Mocambique was difficult, time consuming and unpleasant, the camp I occupied was hot, grubby and uncomfortable and the runaway veld fires, which burned every day throughout the concession, ultimately destroying nearly 80% of it, changed game patterns and I did not see a nyala remotely close to the magical 30 inch mark. This was compounded by the ever present daily signs of rampant and unremitting poaching which, time and again, sucked the joy out of being in the bush. While it is true that the Chinese seem to be behind virtually all the poaching of natural resources in the country â€“ from fish to timber to wildlife - the Mocambique government is rapidly acquiring the well-deserved reputation as eager and willing aiders and abetters of these rapacious army ant lookalikes - they destroy everything in their path!
We had an excellent, well attended meeting at the offices of SA Hunters in Pretoria and they are keen to host the new unashamedly ethical hunting body, which many of us are keen to form to implement a well thought out public relations strategy, managed by a professional PR firm, to promote hunting as well as providing support for clearly identified conservation programs and hunting education for youngsters. A number of attendees were tasked to prepare various documents by the end of this month and a follow up meeting is due to be held in Pretoria next month with a view to forming the body, which is provisionally being called the Fair Chase Guild, by April.
I attended a breakfast meeting in Dallas with the current and immediate past president of CIC and was interested to hear that there are moves afoot to establish a global body to co-ordinate public relations efforts of the various major hunting organisations worldwide. I also spent time with George Chamblee, a past president of the Dallas Safari Club, who is actively involved with the Dallas Ecological Foundation, which currently is responsible for bringing hunting education courses to some 25 000 school children in Texas. They hope to double the number of children attending these courses in the next three years and extend it to schools outside Texas. This is certainly something I would like the Fair Chase Guild to look at during the course of the year.
I was interviewed by the very professional team from the BBC World Service in December and then chosen to be part of the program, The Why Factor. The program was broadcast on New Yearâ€™s Day under the heading, Hunting. Why do we hunt? Why do we kill animals when we no longer need to do so to eat? See the link - www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03bg3lt - You can listen to and download the program until 7 February, 2016.
It is clear that there is a lot of confusion amongst non-hunters about trophy hunting, as opposed to culling or hunting for food. This was brought home to me at a recent dinner with Shane Mahoney. Shane is the world famous, Canadian, wildlife biologist who produced the North American Conservation Model and then collaborated with me to produce and narrate The South African Conservation Success Story. His research shows that, in North America, nearly 80% of people approve of those who hunt for food. This drops to just over 50% for those who hunt for sport and plummets to 22% for those who hunt for trophies, despite the fact that supposed meat hunters try hard to and enjoy hunting big animals and sometimes keep a memento of them and that supposed trophy hunters and the people who guide them eat the meat of the animals they hunt. I have written an article on this topic which will be published in SA Hunter - rapidly becoming one of, if not the, best hunting magazine in Africa - in the near future. Please watch out for it.
The layout of the Bongo Nyala Book is well under way and we are on track to have it out on the shelves in October. I have made a start on the Buffalo Book and already started to receive contributions and photos. I am very excited about the book as the stories thus far, written especially for the book, are exciting, true and contain many helpful hints on how to hunt these behemoths. The Bongo Nyala book is such a big book and took so much time and effort to complete on time that I wondered out loud whether it might not be my second last book â€“ I was already committed to the Buffalo Book â€“ but a break and the buffalo articles and photos I have seen have given me new life. We will have to see. At any rate, my wife, Jane, has been encouraging me to carry on. She says too many people want me to do so. I am not sure whether she is being honest, flattering me or merely concerned that, if I stop writing, I may end up getting under her feet. We will have to wait and see.
At any rate, I am back in training for my forest sitatunga hunt in the Republic of Congo with Christophe Beau in July and have just booked my favourite hunt for Lord Derbyâ€™s eland with Franz Coupe in January/February 2017 in Cameroon. So you can see that I am more than hopeful that the heart surgery which awaits me next Friday in the UCT Private Hospital will be a big success and I will be able to lead a more normal life once again.