With more than a decade as a freelance professional hunter, Abraham Survivous Steinberg’s profession is on the brink of coming to a halt.
Steinberg, who has traversed remote, uninhabited wild areas in accompanying mostly western tourists in their hunting expeditions, is still pondering what is next for him. He predicts a bleak future ahead after the ban of trophy hunting in Botswana next year.
“This is the only profession I was relying on for my livelihood and my employees who are trackers. I am going to lose my source of income as a result of the trophy hunting ban. I was doing it for the love of sport hunting. The government and the community trusts were benefiting more than me as a freelance hunter,” he said.
As a freelance professional hunter, Steinberg relies on auctions of big game animals where he buys wild animals from community trusts which own concession areas and market them in Europe.
He has learnt that trophy hunting for freelance hunters like him was not profitable compared to hunting companies. He says his courage to continue as a professional hunter emanated from the love of sport hunting.┬á
However, he warns that many people will be affected by the ban.
Steinberg, who accompanied┬átourists to give them a glimpse of the hunting experience fears that communities who have been relying on community trusts that own concession areas will be affected.
As a freelance hunter, his turnover ranges from P400 000 to P900┬á000, 70 percent of the money going towards the trust fee and licence fee.
┬á“This is not my money alone. We are not getting rich and we bring the foreign currency in and this benefits the country. The money that I get is little because┬áI repair vehicles that I use for hunting expeditions and pay trackers who are my employees,” said Steinberg.
┬áAnother professional hunter in Maun, speaking on condition of anonymity, termed the move as the worst decision ever.┬áHe was worried that professional hunters who are usually hired by big companies will be left high and dry.
┬á“My workers always ask me how they are going to survive next year after the ban of trophy hunting and I don’t have answers. Companies are better because they can diversify but it will be a difficult situation for us. I will be forced to do something that I have never done before. Hunting has been my livelihood. I see many people losing their jobs and there is a possibility that poaching will go up since many will be wallowing in poverty,” he said.
Okavango Research┬áCentre Acting Director, Proffesor Joseph Mbaiwa, says banning of trophy hunting would affect the revenue generated by communities that rely on community trusts.
“If the ban is imposed this supply will be cut short and communities won’t be able to carry some activities for their own benefit. Poaching is likely to go up since the chain supply which has been the core business that brought revenue for their benefit has been since cut,” added Mbaiwa.
┬áMbaiwa argued that photographic safaris for communities are unlikely to make profits compared to big tourism companies that occupy the core of delta. Most of the community trusts are on the periphery of the delta, which is not attractive to tourists.