Fit to be hunted: Trophy hunting and other South African secrets

Cape Town is great for physical fitness and outdoor adventuring, but few know its trophy hunting (and other) secrets.

The last 6 weeks I interned in Africa’s largest newsroom while getting crazy into fitness and learning about trophy hunting. I was quite surprised by what I encountered.

As a writer for the Sunday Times, I tackled an array of topics:

  • Black Friday- South African-style

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    Toys R Us was the busiest store at the Canal Walk Shopping Centre on Black Friday. The most drama that occurred there was a customer trying to take all 7 boxes of an available doll for themselves. They weren’t allowed.

While Black Friday is American, Africa also adopted it a couple years ago. I was assigned early morning duty for that day at Canal Walk, one of South Africa’s largest malls.

The mall’s biggest draw was Toys R Us, where a line of 75 customers congregated to get 50% off toys. I couldn’t help but snicker while there. South African media was making this day a big deal, but compared to the US this was trifling.

  • Puppies dying from uniquely scented diarrhea

The animal lover in me came out when it became my mission to inform the community about parvo, a puppy virus spreading through Cape Town. I interviewed top clinics in the area as well as the city’s animal carcass disposal service, all of whom confirmed that the parvo outbreak is the worst it’s been in decades.

  • A long-awaited rape trial

I helped contribute to one of South Africa’s most pressing criminal cases about the rape and murder of 21-year-old university student Hannah Cornelius.  The four men accused were all members of gangs and all but one were handed life sentences.

In that tiny court room, I quickly learned to keep my eyes from wandering- the prisoners tried to make eye contact with me a few times! That gave me the strangest feeling…

When I wasn’t writing and reporting, I lived freely outdoors:

  • Hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head

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After a sweaty hike to the top of Table Mountain, I took the cable car down. See the view of Cape Town below!

Lion’s Head is the mountain directly across from Table Mountain, considered the easier of the two peaks for hiking. However, it still contains chains, ladders, and obstacles. The view on top is worth the toil: its sunset is breathtaking!

I loved doing Table Mountain’s hardest route: Skeleton Gorge. Though it’s only 3.7 miles (6 kilometers), it’s the hardest hike I’ve done.

  • Biking to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point

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The view of Cape Point. See the different shades of water on the the left side.

The Cape of Good Hope is Africa’s southwestern-most point, while Cape Point is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are believed to meet.  Both sites are located within Table Mountain National Park, and are about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from Simonstown, where there are penguin colonies!

I ended up doing a 40-mile bicycle ride to and from Simonstown and around both capes, with some exploring along the way. I wasn’t ready for pedalling up those mountains though!

  • Doing a Color Run at Sea Point

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    Looking quite blue after Cape Town’s Color Run!

I joined thousands of people to walk (few ran) the scenic promenade along the Sea Point beach, going from color station to color station. An Afrikaans family made sure I was doused in color at the end!

My greatest Cape Town thrill, however, was a trophy hunting story I developed the last couple weeks:

I’m pitching it for international publication, hopefully USA Today or National Geographic. Here are some main points:

  • Trophy hunters are mostly Americans (86%) who come to South Africa to hunt just about any wild animal, which is permissible if they pay for it.

 

  • While trophy hunters are a small percentage of tourists to South Africa (<.1%), they spend about $20,000 per person in country. That’s huge!

 

  • Trophy hunting in South Africa is profitable. In the 1960s, there were no game ranches. Today, partly due to lucrative legislation, almost 10,000 private game reserves exist.

 

  • Hunters say they’re supporting conservation with the big bucks they spend on hunts and only killing old animals that no longer contribute to herds.

 

  • Critics say hunting proceeds rarely go toward local communities or conservation and that often the older males are the most productive and vital for keeping herds together.
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A collection of animal trophies at Buck ‘n Bass Taxidermy in Durbanville in the Cape Winelands. Taxidermy here takes six months per animal.

An objective of my article was to understand why trophy hunters considered killing animals a semi-religious experience. These guys would sometimes ball their eyes out as they shot their prey, and almost always made sure that the creature was taxidermied to display openly in their house. Rarely, however, did they care about getting the animal’s meat. Why? That was one of my many questions…But if the story’s published, I want you still to be surprised!

***

As I leave Cape Town for my next international adventure, I appreciate the opportunities the city gave me to explore my writing passion, encounter land and sea, and develop a deep interest in something I previously had no clue about. Farewell, South Africa!

 

More photos from my last 6 weeks are below:

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Me with Maein, my close Libyan friend. HIs childhood dream was to become a pilot, so he saved his $$$ the last 5 years to come to South Africa so he could learn English and then take pilot training.
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The two Frans meet! Here I am with the other Fran, who owns Fran’s Place, a Simonstown restaurant.
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Another look at me after finishing the Color Run…before my face got doused in blue!
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I’ve been to many church services where nobody even says hi to me. However, at Cape Peninsula Reformed Church, I quickly became a part of a tight-knit, God-fearing family.
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Being away for so long can be draining. That’s why I like to keep in touch with friends. I talk on Skype every week with my Indonesian pals, Mbak Vita and Mbak Mei. It keeps my Bahasa Indonesia skills sharp and gives us an excuse to stay in touch!
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When I reached the Cape Point lighthouse, it was selfie time! My hair is blowing, but I don’t care!
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I’ve always wanted to see penguins in the wild. At last, in Simonstown, here they are.
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Here I am at Cape of Good Hope, Africa’s most southwestern point.
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Kalk Bay, a touristy coastal town where my church friends took me for lunch one Sunday afternoon.
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On the top of Table Mountain is a reservoir with water that is  red-orange.
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My last day in Cape Town, I went with my friend Nell to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had stayed for 16 of his 27 prison years. While the island is no longer a prison, it’s excellent for birding and turtle viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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