At the beginning of the 20th century, East African hunting safaris became a fashionable pursuit among members of the privileged classes, particularly in Britain and the United States.
The completion of the Uganda Railway in 1901 provided easier access to the interior highlands of British East Africa (now Kenya), where large game, especially elephants, lions, buffalo and rhinoceros, was plentiful. The British colonial government also turned big-game hunting into a source of revenue, charging the tourists and hunters licensing fees for permission to kill the game animals. In 1909, a UKP 50 hunting license in British East Africa entitled its purchaser to kill 2 buffalo, 2 hippo, 1 eland, 22 zebras, 6 oryx, 4 waterbuck, 1 greater kudu, 4 lesser kudu, 10 topis, 26 hartebeest, 229 other antelope, 84 colobus monkey and unlimited lions and leopards, because these last two, which killed livestock, were classified as ‘vermin’. The white hunter served these paying customers as guide, teacher, and protector.
White hunter is a former term used for professional big game hunters of European or North America backgrounds who plied their trade in Africa. The activity still exists in the African countries which still permit big-game hunting, but the ‘white hunter’ is now known as the professional hunter.
The southern African hunting industry has grown in recent years, due partly to a major increase in game ranching at the expense of traditional livestock farming. Wildlife is now concentrated in new and strange habitats. When once they were free to move now boundaries are declared with walls and fences, population densities rise, habitats are diminished, and the land itself begins to die. Where once man killed only for his life, or food, now it’s sport, or trophy, and the game is killing the game.
From a long term project documenting man’s commodification of wildlife, ‘hunters’ explores the complex relationship that exists between man and animal, the hunter and the hunted, as both struggle to adapt to our changing environments.
Recipient of the POYI World Understanding Award 2013