International hunters take over 100 000 trophies in Africa, annually. The investment in time, effort and money in the process is enormous. Selecting which country, which region in that country, the outfitter, the package on offer, all seems to take precedence, understandably, over the choice of taxidermy. In fact, for many, the taxidermy is generally an afterthought.
This was the first thing that struck me about this industry: At the great conventions, you will have up to 30 outfitters from Namibia, and not one Namibian taxidermist! You could have 70 or more outfitters from South Africa, and perhaps there might be two South African taxidermists exhibiting. Yet the halls are usually well stocked with American taxidermists. Does that mean they are better taxidermists, or just better marketers, or both?
Following the hunt and having chosen your taxidermist, what next? Who will take the responsibility of ensuring your precious trophy arrives home safely? You? The outfitter? The taxidermist? The shipping agent?
The number of complaints we have received over the years about lost trophies, impounded trophies, those that have taken literally years to be sent back… and then, to cap it all – the costs being paid, is just incredible.
In both African Hunting Surveys that we’ve run, the issue around taxidermy and shipping is, in my opinion, one of the single biggest internal industry challenges to the long-term future growth of Africa’s hunting.
“Internal” challenges? I mean something within in the industry’s control, and not an outside influence, like a government’s unilateral decision, or pressure from the media and animal rights interventions.
Let me to explain:
The hunt can go ahead, where every effort has been taken in getting the hunter to Africa and where he experiences a first-class safari. But then what? Some say that after a sale is concluded and paid for, it’s possible that outfitters may lose a degree of interest because “their side of the deal is done” and there are the examples that back this up. The outfitter has received his money. He often passes on the worries of getting your trophies home to some taxidermist and/or shipping agent, claiming they are the specialists. And well they might be.
Invariably, however, the taxidermist has not met the hunter.
The shipping agent sure as hell hasn’t met the hunter. But you now depend on them both to get your trophies safely back!
The outfitter gets a kickback of anywhere between 10 and 30% from the taxidermist simply to bring your trophy to him for mounting. And the taxidermist gets a kickback from the shipping agent of anywhere between 10 and 25% on the same principle. And you, the hunter, pay the premium. It is as simple as that.
All of this would be fine if you knew this upfront, and you were also dealing with a swift, efficient service.But the timeline to receive trophies is anything from six to 18 months, and, in some cases, two years! Taxidermists can tell you some story about how long the skulls need to dry, or how the chemicals need to kill deep-rooted bugs that take months to be cleared. But the truth is that their world is one of greater demand than supply. And you, the international hunting client, suffers.
Added to this, the workmanship varies from outstanding to quite literally an embarrassment to the trade. Our magazine has tried to tread the path of simply delivering information – both informative and entertaining. We have stuck to our mission of promoting hunting in Africa through the promotion of outfitters, PHs, artists, guns, ammo, optics, scopes, and taxidermists – but seldom talking about shipping.
Much of the above is for hunters to opt for their supplier of choice. With taxidermy and – to a large extent – the shipping, your outfitter wields massive influence. When a hunter has just shot a leopard in northern Mozambique, the last thing he is in a position to do is to start demanding which shipping agent or taxidermist his PH should use, if a certain “recommendation” is strongly advised by the PH to be the only legal, or registered, or recommended supplier.
And so with this background, we bring you the first book of its kind. Something to help you. It is not a text book and it is by no means definitive. It does share with you some insights on the subject, and what you need to be aware of when on your next hunt.
And when all is said and you have made your decision, there is one thing we can guarantee you – and that is getting your trophy back home more cost-effectively and more efficiently than you have previously experienced. Why? Because the shipping business we set up, AHG Shipping, has a no kickback policy. We have the best rates. We are based on both sides of the Atlantic and, through our magazine, are more committed to seeing African hunting prosper, as that, after all, is our number one mission. Enjoy the read.