Dallas Safari Club certainly rolled out the red carpet for Custodians. I was warmly received by
executive members Corey Mason, Karl Evans and Richard Cheatham. Richard has been appointed CEO of the Dallas Safari Club Foundation which is a new appointment and hopefully we will develop a fruitful relationship with this foundation going forward.
Once again, we started the show with an OPHAA meeting where it was explained to those attending what we are working towards with OPHAA, namely, to prevent illegal cross border operators as well as to form a united front with our respective governments to influence policy both locally and internationally.
The attendance at Dallas has been very good and once again much networking has been done with various role players. The biggest issues facing us currently is the political noise around expropriation without compensation, high crime levels and to a lesser extent the perception that hunting is behind high fencing. The first 2 issues are governmental issues and the last is a perennial one which is just the way the South African model of private ownership works.
On Friday morning I was interviewed by Cabelas/Bass Pro radio, along with Danene Van Der Westhuyzen from Namibia and Michel Mantheakis from Tanzania about hunting and the role it plays in conservation in Africa. It is an hour-long program which has a listenership of around 100 000 per hour during broadcast. The interviewer was suitably impressed and stated that the 3 of us really need to answer the questions on national television! Unlikely, but the more we engage media the more chance there is of getting our message out there in the public domain.
Custodians also facilitated the attendance of Chief Director of DEA, Mr Matibe, at the convention and I had him in our booth explaining how the hunting industry works, costs of attending, restrictive legislation, difficulty of making a profit etc, but most importantly we sat and worked on how government can help the industry. He stated the new minister is 100% committed to sustainable use and the industry and wants to help grow our industry. We had discussions with John Jackson and are devising to use certain political avenues both at home and in the USA to influence the highest authorities in the USA. We hope the government puts its money where its mouth is so to speak.
Custodians had an informal gathering in suite 1402 of the Omni where approximately 25 members attended. As most had dinner plans the social was short and sweet, a chance for friends with the same passion to get together and exchange stories and jokes…Lots of laughter.
Saturday in the booth was busy with members coming to catch up also getting opinions of many of our international friends and sponsors. There are many people who know about the split in the industry, but few know the long story that lead to the split. Many want to see a unified front but as I point out to them the split has been good for the industry. it has sharpened the efforts to get members involved in associations and the actual number has grown since the split. Both associations are fighting the same enemy, namely the animal rights groups and firearm related issues. If anything, there are now 2 sticks in the fight. I don`t believe the split has been bad for the industry.
The Saturday night banquet was a huge affair with Lt Col Oliver North being the keynote speaker. He is an American hero of numerous wars and is now president of the powerful NRA. I had the privilege of being seated next to him at one of the VIP tables along with Corey but unfortunately, immediately after his speech, Oliver North was whisked off to be photographed with war vets and sign autographs before flying back home to North Virginia. However, we did share business cards and I think that there is potential to form an alliance with the NRA. If the gun lobby is successful in reducing gun ownership or even banning private ownership of firearms (their goal) then that directly affects our conservation efforts in Africa.
I`d like to consult with industry leaders about the merit of making an international alliance to fight against the anti-gun and anti-hunting lobby. The NRA is shifting its focus away from guns alone and looking to fight for hunting rights as well.
Sunday in the blind was very slow, not many animals came in. A couple of trophies walked past but nothing exciting came within range. Overall a good show.
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