Dwindling Ivory Opportunities
For the American hunter that has been dreaming about adding a nice matched set of ivory tusks to his or her game room, the landscape just changed significantly. On April 4, 2014, the USF&W agency issued a temporary suspension of ivory importation and elephant parts from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for calendar year 2014. A revision was subsequently issued lifting the elephant importation ban for trophies taken legally in Zimbabwe prior to the April 4th announcement.
This announcement created a world-wide stir in the hunting and conservation communities and reduced the number of countries where US hunters could legally import elephants from to only two countries! With Botswana stopping the hunting of elephants the previous year, suddenly, those craving a set of ivory were left looking at greatly reduced opportunities!
Although US hunters can legally hunt elephants anywhere that they are offered at, many are reluctant to spend thousands of dollars to return home with only photographs of their great experience. The taking of an African elephant is one of the greatest moments in sport hunting, and can be a life altering moment for many!
So what is left for the hunter that wishes to take the largest land mammal on earth? Only Namibia and South Africa remain. Both countries feature limited tags and exportable quota under CITES. A listing of some of the best remaining locations to hunt elephants within these two countries follows:
Elephant hunting in Namibia can be classified as traditional elephant hunting or desert elephant hunting. Desert elephants exist in areas surrounding the Etosha Pan and encompass Etosha National Park. Other harsh climate areas in northern Namibia may also be considered to host desert elephants. There is some amount of controversy as to what constitutes a desert elephant. Some of these animals are highly migratory, and therefore wander in and out of areas that are considered to be the home ranges of resident desert elephants. Best estimates are that somewhere between 300 – 400 desert elephants exist in Namibia at the present time. The Namibian government issues an extremely limited number of exportable desert elephant tags to outfitters in Namibia. Numbers are believed to be from 6 – 8 exportable tags every three years.
This makes the desert elephant hunt a very rare hunt and a memorable one. Expected ivory size can range from 30 – 40 lbs. in some areas to 40-60 lbs. in others. Most mature bulls feature broken tusks from digging in the rocky dry environment. Many of these hunts are conducted in desert conditions with high heat. Hunters should be in excellent physical condition to attempt this difficult hunt.
Northwest Namibia features elephant hunting is conservancies such as the Uuklandkwabde Conservancy and others. Ivory reaching 40 – 60 lbs. can be expected with some elephants reaching larger sizes.
Bushmanland in NE Namibia is a good location to hunt elephants. Several elephants sporting ivory in the 70 – 80 lb. range have been taken in recent years. This is one of the best areas to shoot a huge bull with heavy ivory in all of Namibia, and one of the last locations where you can get that giant heavy trophy to bring home to the US.
The east Kavango area borders Bushmanland and features elephants that can range from 60 – 80 lbs. This makes this area one of the better areas to hunt elephants for exportable ivory in Africa today.
The Caprivi Strip consists of multiple conservancies and National Parks that remain as one of the best elephant hunting destinations in Africa. Sandwiched between the Okavango Delta region in Botswana and Angola, it is a literal elephant crossroads between these two countries.
Bordered by the Chobe and Zambezi rivers the Caprivi Strip remains as one of Africa’s premier big game hunting destinations, and features good numbers of trophy bull elephants. For the hunter wanting a reasonable opportunity to hunt elephant and take home a good bull, it is hard to beat this area for its numbers of elephant and the multiple concessions and areas that they can be hunted in. Plus, the opportunity to take a Cape buffalo, hippo and crocodile just sweetens the deal if quota is available!
Due to the lack of truly free-range vast areas other than in National Parks that elephants require, elephant hunting opportunities in South Africa are somewhat limited. There are essentially four areas of opportunity to hunt elephant in South Africa. Because of these limited opportunities and available quota, prices tend to be higher than other destinations in southern Africa, and especially when compared to neighboring Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been the most affordable location to hunt elephant in recent years, but with the suspension of importing Zimbabwean sport-hunted ivory into the US, South Africa is now a destination that must be considered.
The Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) which are part of the Kruger Park system, and feature open borders with the park, offer the opportunity to hunt elephants that are unpressured. There is a limit on the size of elephants that may be taken, as the park does not want its world-famous 100 lbers removed. (Nor do they want the global outcry that would ensue). The available tags usually max out at 60 or 70 lbs. Still, it offers a good hunt for a great trophy in a stable country. Prices for a 60# elephant in the APNR’s were around $60,000 for calendar year 2014.
Additional opportunities occur on properties where elephants emerge from the park and damage landowners’ crops. Permits are issued to some of these landowners to compensate them for the damage that is done by these elephants. This still offers a chance at a huge bull, although if one of the radio-collared giant bulls emerges from the park, it must not be shot. There is no guarantee of success on these hunts, but the chance at the elephant of a lifetime does exist!
There is some quota issued for elephant that are on private reserves scattered around South Africa. The size of these elephants is usually known up-front, so you are basically paying for what you get. Many of these elephants range from 25 to 40 lbs., with opportunities occasionally arising to take a bull that is larger. These elephants have recently ranged from $35,000 to $48,000.
Finally, some elephants do cross the border into South Africa from Botswana and Zimbabwe. Concession owners are given quota to remove some of these elephants that tear down the fences of South African plains game concessions located on these borders. Elephants usually range from 25 – 40 lbs. Pricing varies, but I know of three bulls in this size range that were available for $38,000 each in calendar year 2014.
If the ivory importation suspension for Zimbabwe and Tanzania remains in effect beyond 2014, prices are expected to rise for Namibia and South Africa elephant hunts, as more US hunters will be competing for a limited number of exportable bulls. Just like the African lion, the time to book your trophy bull elephant hunt is now! Hunt elephant while you can still bring the ivory home!