African Trophy Fees: The Past Century

Changes in kudu trophy fees

In 1904, two enterprising Australians, Victor Newland and Leslie Tarlton, started the first safari outfitting company operating in Africa. Along with Claude Tritton, their partner, they opened an office above the site of the famous Rowland Ward taxidermy studio in Piccadilly, London. These well-organised luxury safaris even offered champagne and caviar, imported at great cost and transported by mules, horses and oxen along with a stream of porters. In its time referred to as the safari capital, they operated out of the famous Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi (Kenya), known as Mile 326 back in the 1900’s. 

This became the winter home of the aristocracy, the rich and famous celebrities from presidents to well-known authors. One of those white hunters employed by the company was Philip Percival who took clients on Lion hunts offering his rather rustic facilities for a price of BP£ 10 per week and £ 25 per lion. To put this in perspective, this was the equivalent of $24 per week or a daily rate of $3.43 per day and a Lion trophy fee of $ 60. My oh my, how things have changed.

Philip Hope Percival archive photo
Philip Hope Percival. Image courtesy of the Wild&Jag magazine, Chris van der Watt and Mike Cameron

In 1977 hunting was closed in Kenya and many of the displaced outfitters and white hunters moved south starting businesses in Botswana and South Africa. How this would change the wildlife conservation landscape in South Africa is quite remarkable. In South Africa, over 20.5 million hectares (50.2 million acres) of land has been transformed from marginal agricultural land into thriving game farms, with 94% of these privately owned game ranchers relying solely on hunting for their income. These ranches have provided habitat for the resurgence in wildlife numbers with many species at one stage teetering on the brink of local and international extinction.

Initially unregulated, in the late 1960s early 1970s a hunting industry developed in South Africa, thanks to iconic game farming and conservation industry pioneers such as Coenraad Vermaak, who turned his passion into a family business in 1970. He later went on to become the first officially licensed Professional Hunter in South Africa and served as the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa president for 15 years.   

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After coming across a few old hunting price lists, it was interesting to compare how hunting prices, trends and hunt marketing has changed over the years since 1977. Unfortunately actual South African hunting prices are difficult to find until around 2005. We will take a look at the pricing trends of the Big 5, some special and most commonly hunted species in South Africa.  All prices were originally in SA Rand, but converted to US Dollar at historic rates. 

Most Commonly Hunted Species in South Africa

Species/Year 1977 1979 1981 1993 2005 2010 2015 2020
Blesbok 90   135 300 350 400 425 300
Gemsbok     520 700 1,000 1,400 1,500 980
Impala 50   95 175 325 350 375 250
Kudu   420 470 1,000 1,200 1,600 2,900 1,500
Nyala     520 1,100 2,250 2,250 2,400 800
Springbuck 50   80 250 350 350 375 280
Warthog 45 60 80 175 300 350 350 400
Waterbuck   520 570 1,000 1,600 2,200 2,345 1,500
Wildebeest 150   310 400 850 1,100 1,150 850
Zebra 290   365 850 1,000 1,200 1,400 600

* These figures are a general trend and not 100% accurate due to the unavailability of reliable data.

** The 2020 prices are the BEST BUY available on BookYourHunt and not necessarily in South Africa

Prices In General

The prices reflected in the table above give a good indication of how trophy fees have shifted over the years. At a glance we note that prices have increased since 1977 until the 2020 Covid 19 pandemic crash. Many of the species prices flatlined, so how did the outfitters manage to make a profit and survive?

Impala trophy fees

One important fact to keep in mind is that the foreign exchange rate conversion rate over the years has meant that even though many species prices have flatlined their value in Rand (South African currency) has increased. The devaluation of the Rand since 1977 will give you some indication of what has transpired:

Exchange Rate Comparison

In 1977 the Rand was stronger than the Dollar. Note how this has changed over the years. At the time of writing (August 2020) the 1 US Dollar cost R 17.20.

Year 1977 1979 1981 1993 2005 2010 2015 2020
US Dollar 0.87 0.83 0.95 3.40 6.33 6.63 15.57 17.20

Coronavirus Pandemic

In 2020, the pandemic hit the world and spun the Outfitters into survival mode. The online marketplace offers our readers the opportunity to shop and compare prices and the services offered by numerous Outfitters without having to leave the comfort of your own home as opposed to going to a hunting show and walking from booth to booth to find the same information.

The majority of Outfitters are offering specials for 2020 which will still be valid for the 2021 hunting season. Listed in the last column of the table are the best prices to be found in Sub-Saharan Africa and not just South Africa, on the platform. 

Changes in kudu trophy fees

Daily Rates

In the fight for survival many Outfitters are discounting their daily rates and some are even offering free daily rate hunts. However, as is the case with any good deal, you need to read the terms and conditions very carefully before making a judgement call and compare apples with apples. ensures to the best of our ability that there are no hidden costs not listed in our advertised hunts. The specific services either included or excluded from the outfitters prices are indicated in the hunt information details.

Daily rates increased significantly from 1977 into the early 1980s prior the standardisation of Outfitters daily rates. Today one can expect to find two sets of daily rates on a price list, one for a plains game hunt and the higher one for a dangerous or “Big 5” hunt. The 1:1 (1 Hunter x 1 Professional Hunter) rate for a plains game hunt in 1977 was $290 and has not increased much over the years.

Trophy Prices   

Trophy fees for most species have stabilised and some declined significantly with a few increasing over the years. This is due to supply and demand with over 1,300 registered commercial game ranchers managing over 20 million head of game. There is now roughly 3 times more wildlife on private ranches than in the National Parks who initially sold the excess seed stock to start up this wildlife industry. 

Species such as Sable Antelope were rare with only very limited numbers being available for hunting. In 1981, Roan did not even appear on trophy price lists as they only occurred in national and provincial reserves. Once surplus from these reserves was sold to the game ranchers their numbers began to increase significantly. Numerous breeding projects have contributed to top quality trophies being offered for hunting purposes. What now qualifies as an average trophy sold for top dollar back in the early 2000s. Prices for Sable and Roan Antelope have shown a sharp drop in the past few years due to the significant increase in population numbers and trophies available to the hunting market.  

Sable plrice comparison

Roan antelope prices

Sable and Roan Antelope Prices in South Africa

  1981 2005 2010 2015 Best Buy 2020
Roan Antelope N/A 9,750 11,000 10,620 3,500
Sable Antelope 2,600 8,000 10,000 9,400 2,200

Some species, such as Sable, Roan and Kudu are now sold by the inch with premium prices being asked for top quality trophy animals however do not underestimate the entry point level prices paid for these animals as there is nothing wrong with the trophy quality. If you shoot for the record book, even the entry level animals will qualify. 

Big 5 Prices

Hunting the “Big 5” has never been cheap but even these species prices have been affected by the downturn in this Covid economy, illegal Rhino poaching and controversial canned/captive lion breeding programs.

Many of these species are sold on a sliding scale depending on their size, age and trophy quality. It was interesting to see that even as far back as 1981 Rhinos were sold as a “Price on Request” (POR) species.

Big 5 Prices in South Africa

  1981 2005 2010 2015 Best Buy 2020
Buffalo 1,250 10,650 11,000 14,000 8,000
Elephant 3,640     30,600 20,000 (Zim)
Leopard 1,560 5,000 8,000 4,500 5,000 (Nam)
Lion 2,290 25,000 40,000 22,260 14,000 (Moz)
Rhino, White   36,500   85,470 30,000

* Best Buy is not necessarily in South Africa

Biffalo price comparison

Buffalo prices are definitely on the downward slide as game ranched Buffalo numbers have increased making Buffalo more readily available throughout the country. However, premium prices are still paid by hunters to hunt for super-size trophies produced by the breeding projects or for the experience to hunt a Buffalo on a large property, especially those territories adjoining National Parks with free ranging herds that traverse between the territories.

Limited Elephant hunting is available in South Africa, often with very specific age and maximum tusk weight conditions, making it difficult to compare prices. The best Elephant deals are in Zimbabwe and Botswana is about to reopen Elephant hunting.    

Although South Africa has surplus Leopards, the South African government has temporarily suspended Leopard hunting and sometimes offers a very limited quota at short notice. Most South African Outfitters buy quota from Zimbabwean and Namibian Outfitters for their clients. Currently the best trophy fee price on Leopard is in Namibia.

Changes in leopard trophy fees over time

Lion hunting in South Africa has unfortunately become an internationally hotly debated ethical issue. While captive bred lions have devalued the price of lion trophy fees, wild managed Lions (naturally bred and raised) hunted in large open private reserves still hold their price. To avoid the raging ethical hunting controversy surrounding the lion breeding industry, does not market Lion hunts in South Africa. The best deal we have at the moment is in Mozambique.

The price of Rhino’s soared from 1981 until around 2015 when Rhino poaching became the scourge of Africa. Many ranchers have sold off their remaining Rhinos that were not poached due to the security risks of owning such a sought after black market product. Many Rhinos have been dehorned in an effort to save the species from poachers which in the process has more than halved the value of this species as a trophy hunted animal.

The Future    

A number of colour variant species have been bred and released onto the hunting market. Their prices have crashed significantly both as a breeding and hunting animals. Many of the less rare colour variant species are now more reasonably priced and prices continue to fall as the market becomes more and more saturated. How this burst bubble will play out is still to be seen.

The high end breeding species like Buffalo, Roan and Sable prices are still steadily declining in price and it will be interesting to see how these prices are affected by the Coronavirus pandemic fall-out.

Outfitters and game ranchers are in for turbulent times but right now it’s a buyers’ market so book your hunt.  

by Peter Ruddle




Hunting in South Africa Facts – Risks – Opportunities: Gerhard R Damm, August 2005

Philip Hope Percival:  Game & Hunt Daily, Chris van der Watt / Co-author: Mike Cameron

Philip Hope Percival: Wikipedia

South African Professional Hunting Statistics: Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa

Victor Marra Newland: Wikipedia

Zulu Afrika Safaris: Price Lists 2005 -2016

Photo Credit

Philip Percival  – Wild & Jag

1977 Price List – Coenraad Vermaak Safaris

1979 Price List – Garry Kelly Safaris

1981 Price List – BG Safaris

1993 Price List – Garry Kelly Safaris

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