By Dennis Pickard (Chairman of the Taxidermist Association of Southern Africa)
Dated 8 June 2005
This article is aimed at giving the general public, hunters and trophy
collectors, as well as related industries an overview regarding the
history and current status of the taxidermy industry in the Republic of
Since the taxidermy industry is indirectly yet very closely
linked to the hunting and Ecotourism industries, it may be safe to say
that the growth of the aforementioned industries over the past number
of years paints a very positive picture for the taxidermy industry in
The first association for taxidermists was founded in 1980
and was named The Taxidermy Association of Southern Africa, (The TASA).
In the early 1990’s a group of members including some
founder members decided to break away from the TASA to form a second
association called the Association for Commercial Taxidermists and Game
Skin Tanners. These are mainly the larger commercial taxidermists with
a relatively small membership.
The TASA continued to exist after the “breakaway” obviously
with fewer members and some leadership positions, but re-organised
themselves and very soon the association was growing again to a healthy
membership of 80 members today of which approximately 70% represent
commercial businesses. TASA also has quite a few members abroad, some
being trade members, some members of the National Taxidermy Association
of America, and yet some others from our neighbouring countries such as
Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.
The TASA’s main activities can be summarised as follows:
- Attending 2-3 shows a year like the Aim Shooter Show and the Wildlife Expo.
- Distribution of at least 3 newsletters annually.
- Meetings and consultations with the relevant import/export authorities.
- At least 4 committee meetings during the year and the AGM at our annual convention.
- Lastly our annual convention and trophy competition at Roode Vallei Country Lodge in Pretoria.
This event is growing in popularity each year and we have
hosted two of our American counterparts on 3 occasions recently. The
exchange of knowledge, new techniques and methods and the introduction
to many new products made this initiative an invaluable experience.
Unfortunately everything in our industry is not as rosy as
we would like it to be. Like every one else, we have our problems and I
will briefly dwell on some of these.
One of the main concerns is the number of complaints
received (mostly from foreign clients) regarding the poor quality of
some of the work leaving this country and delivery times which are
generally too long. These complaints sometimes involve our members and
many times the complaints are about non-members over which we obviously
have no jurisdiction. As far as our members are concerned, complaints
of this nature are handled in line with our disciplinary code, which is
founded on our constitution, and code of conduct. I think it is high
time we all realise that only good quality work and excellent service
delivery will ensure a sustainable future for us in the taxidermy
If we really analyse this situation to determine where
things actually went wrong, we might find that the foreign hunter is
not actually the one to blame. We will find that very often the client
entrusts the selection of a “good” taxidermist to either the
professional hunter or the hunting outfitter and this is exactly where
things sometimes go wrong. It is a known fact that some professional
hunters and hunting outfitters channel the taxidermy work to a friend,
family member or even doing the work themselves and this may mean that
the work is not always of the best quality available. I do not say that
these people cannot do a good job but if the sole reason is to benefit
the aforementioned parties at the cost of good quality or service
delivery, then there is obviously something wrong.
Unfortunately there is no mechanism in place that controls
the quality of work or service in respect of hunting trophies leaving
the country at present. As long as the hunt was conducted legally and
the trophies were processed at a veterinary approved facility, export
permits can be obtained and soon the trophies (good or bad) will be on
its way to its final destination abroad. Another concern is the volume
of work that leaves this country in “raw form” to be finally processed
at points of final destination.
Is the reason for this not perhaps the fact that someone had a bad
experience with taxidermy work done locally or received a negative
message from someone else that did. It should be fairly obvious that we
should all strive to retain the value added work (mounting of the
trophies locally) in our own country. This will definitely assist in
the creation of additional job opportunities something this country so
The graphic illustration below clearly supports this view
and we can only hope that the anti-hunting campaigners lobbying against
hunters and the hunting industry as a whole will not succeed and
thereby destroy many job opportunities that these industries offer.
There is obviously a very big responsibility resting on the shoulders
of the game ranchers to ensure that their business is conducted in an
ethical and sustainable manner.
South Africa has developed into the most popular hunting destination in Africa. The critical success factors being:
- The highly successful management by the conservation authorities in
South Africa of National and Provincial Parks. With approximately 7
million hectares set aside and managed by the authorities, an enormous
resource base of wild animals has been produced for distribution
throughout the country.
- The above, together with the philosophy of sustainable use of our
natural resources, has seen the development of some 9000 privately
owned game farms covering 17 million hectares of land.
- The greatest variety of animals available for hunting in any one country in Africa.
- The high degree of professionalism set by the Professional Hunter’s
Association of South Africa (PHASA) and its members and sound
regulations controlling the professional hunting industry.
- Some 70 000 jobs have been created on game farms and directly from professional hunting.
- In the 2003 hunting season, 7 000 foreign clients, inclusive of
non-hunters in each hunting group, hunted in South Africa, having a
total of 49 398 hunting days.
- A total of 33 417 animals were hunted. This amounts to total
revenue from daily rates, animals hunted and taxidermy work of one
In conclusion, I would like to make a few suggestions, to professional hunters and hunting outfitters out there.
- Treat your clients with the dignity and respect they deserve and expect from you.
- Ensure well trained people do the field preparation of your
client’s trophies and use only the best quality salt at all times. I am
myself a taxidermist and if you see the quality of raw products
delivered to me at times from some professional hunters and outfitters
you will agree that these people ought to be ashamed of themselves.
- Protect raw trophy products from insects, rodents and the like and deliver same in good condition to a competent taxidermist.
- Maintain a proper taxidermy register and record detailed taxidermy
instructions therein, countersigned by the client and hand copies to
the client and the taxidermist.
- If at all possible, introduce your client to the taxidermist (if
not known) and reach an agreement on costs, payment terms, delivery
times, etc., preferably in writing. During this time the client can
evaluate the quality of work and the taxidermists facility.
Suggestions to the client:
- Familiarise yourself with the pricing structure in the taxidermy
industry in the Republic of South Africa. At this point I must stress
that there are very competent and good taxidermists in this country
especially when it comes to African species. With a bit of research you
can get excellent quality at a very reasonable price.
- Beware of “cheap taxidermy” – you get what you pay for.
- If time allows insist on a visit to the taxidermist if recommended by anyone else and you are not familiar with his/her work.
- Contact one of the Taxidermy Associations for assistance and guidance in making your choice.
I really hope this gives some perspective to our readers out there regarding taxidermy in our country.
If all the role players conduct their business dealings in a fair and
equitable fashion, we have a sustainable future in this industry. Only
we ourselves can make it work or fail.
It is all in our own hands.