Ngorongoro — Local professional hunters are demanding government intervention to check against discrimination by foreign hunting firms which are dominating Tanzania's hunting tourism subsector.
The hunters told East African Business Week last week that there is need for regulations to ensure that there is a level playing field for all professional hunters in the subsector which is undergoing radical changes.
Simba Professional Hunters Association (SPHA), Chairman, Hilary Daffi said since the onset of free market economies, the number of local hunters getting recruited by foreign firms has been diminishing because of lack of regulations to protect local jobs.
"Since the demise of Tawico (Tanzania Wildlife Company Limited), the number of local professional hunters has declined because there is no place to formally train and hire them," Mr Daffi who is also Director of Hilary Daffi Hunting Safaris, said.
Daffi pointed out that the problem is not foreign hunting firms but poor local regulations which have provided leeway for the former to exploit. With over 100 local professional hunters who are members of SPHA, the association has been overshadowed by a much affluent Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA) which groups together prominent local and foreign professional hunters.
The hunting tourism subsector is currently embroiled in controversy after 85% of hunting blocks which had been leased to foreign firms reverted to local firms thanks to an amended 2009 Wildlife Conservation Act.
According to the law, only 15% of the blocks went to foreign firms which have since launched an offensive demanding a reversal of the exercise which cost the job of the former Natural Resources Minister, Mr Ezekiel Maige last June.
"It's undisputable that we need foreign professional hunters just like we need foreign hunting firms to enrich our local industry but what we are asking for is a level playing field," argued Daffi. SPHA member and veteran professional hunter, Mr Gervas Michael said that the country's recruitment regulations are outdated and burden them more than foreign hunters.
"For example we are now required to pay TALA fees like tourist firms while we also pay hunting licensing fee annually," argued Michael. Professional hunters are required to pay $200 as fees to Tourist Agents Licensing Authority.
Michael also questioned a procedure which requires local professional hunters to pay for new licenses once they get new employees within the same year. "We pay $1,000 as licensing fees per annum but when one leaves an employer to a new one they are required to pay new annual fees, why?" wondered the veteran hunter who pleaded with government to introduce pay as you earn as an alternative.
Another SPHA member, Mr Mathayo Mkwathia said the discrimination is glaring and wanted the WCA of 2009 to extend its wings to professional hunting where foreigners are making super profits.