Largest Safari Operator Calls It Quits in Tanzania

By Barbara Crown, Editor-in-Chief

We’ve reported in the past about how more than 50 hunting blocks in Tanzania have been abandoned by safari operators who could not afford to operate without selling elephant and lion safaris. That number is now up to 82 and likely to continue growing. The latest operator to pull out is one of the largest safari operators in Tanzania, who turned in all of his hunting blocks and left the safari business due to the continued suspension of elephant and lion imports by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Eric Pasanisi of Tanganyika Wildlife Safaris, Gerard Pasanisi Safaris Corp., and Bartlette Safaris announced that he was walking away from Tanzania and the hunting industry. On Feb. 27 he turned over the remaining 11 of the 21 hunting blocks he held just three years ago.

Pasanisi’s father, Gerard, first began operating in Tanzania in 1967. When Gerard retired about 10 years ago, Eric continued running all of the operations, which included a massive antipoaching program. The Pasanisis offered high-end hunting experiences with luxury camps and were represented in the US by Bert Klineburger. Among all of his concessions, Pasanisi protected more than 40,000 square kilometers of remote habitat in Tanzania. About 25,000 square kilometers was in the Selous Game Reserve and included four important river systems. He held another 17,000 square kilometers in Masailand.

In an email Pasanisi writes, “My family has been the longest operating company in Tanzania—for more than 40 years. We have been the biggest operator in Tanzania and all of Africa. We have held the largest part of the Selous, with prime blocks, the same since 1978, all of which I finished surrendering today. We have gone from 126 safaris per year to a handful because of the closure of US elephant and lion trophy imports. We cannot book enough 21-day safaris to make a profit or stay in business without lion and elephant imports into the US. Our losses are escalating, so I have to stop.

“When US elephant and lion hunting imports were threatened, we stepped up our antipoaching expenditures to $2.4 million in three years. By ourselves, we funded 100 Selous game scouts for many years. I know that the warden of the Selous wrote to the US about how important our presence was to control poaching in the Selous. At the same time, I have donated many full safaris to Shikar for auction to fund the $500,000 for lion studies and aging work that was ignored by USFWS.

“The efforts of Tanzania, my companies, and my foundation have been completely ignored by USFWS. We have already been operating at a loss for too long; it is time to stop. I cannot guarantee that the biodiversity of the hunting areas will not be lost now!

“Our involvement in antipoaching has become almost zero this year because of our income losses. I think that the decisions by USFWS will eventually exterminate all Tanzania wildlife outside national parks because of its determination to stop the importation of trophies into the US. Everything will end very quickly, and wildlife will disappear in these areas that represent almost a third of Tanzania’s territory. With no hunters in the field, it is going to be very difficult to save our last elephants.

“Our poor elephants, our poor animals – shame!

“The real truth is that no one cares, and nobody can realize the irreversible damage caused by such decisions. It is certainly the End of the Game if your governments do not realize and help Tanzania. It is already too late for me, and soon it will be too late for other outfitters.”

Lion and elephant are key game species in Tanzania and other destinations where hunting is in remote areas. The costs of operating in those areas and the way that dangerous game hunts are structured and priced by the governments of some countries (classic full-bag, 21-day safaris versus 10-day plains game hunts or seven-day buffalo hunts) create business margins that necessitate the longer terms and daily rates of a 21-day hunt. Since the suspension of imports for elephant and lion, numerous operators in Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia have told The Hunting Report that their entire quota of seven-day buffalo hunts or 10-day plains game hunts simply does not pay all the bills, especially the costs of traveling to all of the hunting shows. Without elephant and lion, many of the smaller safari operators in these areas have been forced to pull up stakes. Pasanisi is the first of the big-time operators, and we fear he may not be the last. As Pasanisi pointed out, without safari operators in the field “minding the store” and conducting the antipoaching and habitat management that the game departments are not funded to do, the areas will be overrun by poachers, pastoralists, and subsistence farmers. Poor wildlife indeed.