The hunting blocks employed over 200 Tanzanians as cooks, drivers, mechanics and administration personnel.
Eric Pasanisi, a French national who inherited the hunting blocks from his father and long time wildlife conservationist, Gerard Pasanisi, said in an email interview from France that the US represented more than 65 per cent of its clientele.
Pasanisi’s companies of Tanganyika Wildlife Safari, Barlette Safari and Fereck Safari owned 10 tourist hunting blocks in south Selous Game Reserve and one in Ruvu Maasai in Simanjiro.
“We have gone from 126 safaris per year to less than 20 safaris because of the closure of US elephant and lion trophy imports. This ban forced us in the last three years to withdraw 10 hunting blocks previously plus 11 hunting blocks this year,” said Eric Pasanisi.
He added: “We cannot book enough 21-day safaris to make a profit or stay in business without lion and elephant trophy imports into the US. Our losses are escalating so we have to stop.”
He said in spite of emerging difficulties in the tourist hunting industry, his company still paid from 2012 to 2015 in excess of $3 million (around 6.7 billion shillings) in taxes to the government.
“During the same period we also paid more than $5m in game fees and hunting permits. So we, as a company, have been very important contributors to Tanzania's economic expansion as well as in anti-poaching,” said Eric Pasanisi.
The Pasanisi family has been the longest operating company in the tourist hunting business in Tanzania for more than 40 years.
Eric Pasanisi said when US elephant and lion hunting imports were threatened his company stepped up its anti-poaching to the tune of $2.4million in three years.
“We funded 100 game scouts in the Selous Game Reserve for many years, including a plane, vehicles, food and fuel, said Eric Pasanisi, adding: “We have already been operating at a loss for too long it is time to stop.”
He added: “I cannot guarantee that the biodiversity of the hunting areas will not be lost now but we will continue to try our best to preserve the conservation in Tanzania through our conservation body-- the Wildlife Conservation Foundation of Tanzania (WCFT).”
He said the company’s involvement in anti-poaching dropped to almost zero this year compared to the past because of losses of income.
Pasanisi said his father, Gerard, represented the Tanzanian Tourist Corporation (TTC) in 1974 from the beginning, then the Tanzania Tourism Corporation (TTB) until 1993. He has also been the consul of Tanzania in France for the last 25 years.
In addition to this, their foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Foundation of Tanzania (WCFT), whose patrons were three former presidents of state which Eric is the Trustee, was created by former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing and Gerard Pasanisi, and has already given since its creation in excess of 25 vehicles, fully-equipped Toyota Land Cruisers to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism for its anti-poaching squad.
“All of former Tanzanian presidents, ministers for natural resources and tourism, chief secretaries and directors of wildlife were witness to what we have contributed to the anti-poaching crusade in Tanzania, since 1978, 40 years ago,” added Eric.
He said the global financial crisis of 2008 has had repercussions on the hunting industry since 2010, and has weakened the American and European hunting markets severely.
Eric added: “All these factors and many other reasons explain the catastrophic decline of our activity and the fall in revenues related to big game hunting in Tanzania. I think that the situation became irrevocable, so I had to make the necessary hard decisions.”
He confirmed that the decision to surrender the hunting blocks had nothing to do with recent decisions made by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla.
He said that the letter concerning the surrender the hunting blocks was sent to the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism on February 20 and it was copied other responsible authorities.
“How can you possibly believe that my father and I who were the recognized and undisputed leaders in the development of tourism in Tanzania since 1974 will suddenly enter into a conflict with our own minister?” added Eric Pasanisi.
He said the future of the wildlife in these blocks will depend entirely on what the government will do in the future and which companies it will choose.
“I sincerely hope that the government will be able to find a hunting operator who will be able, and willing to do what we used to do in the past ourselves, which is, to protect the wildlife continuously,” he said.