RandGold CEO under fire over hunting hobby

RandGold Resources CEO Mark Bristow has found himself in the news over his hunting hobby, following UK reports picturing him on hunting trips, despite sitting on the conservation council of big cat protection organisation, Panthera.

Bristow made UK headlines this week after being pictured in promotional material for the company Hunters & Guides Africa, UK reports said.

"Yes, he has hunted with us," said John Oosthuizen, from the company Hunters & Guides Africa, on Wednesday.

Oosthuizen would not discuss specifics of Bristow's trips, but said the mining company boss, who hails from South Africa, does not hunt in South Africa. He would not reveal hunting trip prices either.

READ: NSPCA battles environmental affairs over lion bone quota

He could not remember whether the animals were shot dead or darted.

"Everything is done legally," said Oosthuizen. "We get permits from the government for the hunting areas."

He said, before each hunt, the permit for a hunting area was issued by the government, in line with government-set quotas.

Business Insider reported that, on September 25, RandGold was bought by Barrick Gold for $6bn (R90bn in stock) and Bristow, who has a geology doctorate, would run the new company.

Panthera's website features several published articles on "canned lion hunting" and the strides made in protecting Nepal's tiger population, among others.

Media reports included pictures of him with a cheetah. Hunters & Guides Africa refused permission to use the photographs of him.

Anti-hunting activists responded:

Questions were sent to RandGold and Panthera on Wednesday, and their responses will be added when received. As of Thursday, there was still no response.

Panthera does not specifically oppose hunting.

It said on its website: "We are on the front lines, fighting to stop poaching, prevent conflict with people, conserve wild cat habitats, and reduce unsustainable legal hunting. These proven strategies don't just protect wild cats - they also protect their vast landscapes and the endless variety of life within them. These wild places are crucial to our planet's health - and our own."

Other conservation board members at Panthera include the singer Shania Twain, actors Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close, businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch, and writer Wilbur Smith.

'People that are against hunts are misinformed'

Oosthuizen said their international clientele hunts in terms of permits issued by the country in which they were hunting, and was used as a "conservation tool" by the respective country.

This included permits to legally hunt and kill rhino.

The company also judged for itself, irrespective of whether they had a permit, whether the animal was being "overhunted", so they did not shoot every animal they encounter.

"People that are against hunts are misinformed," said Oosthuizen.

He said the hunting industry also provided employment - not just for those on the hunt itself, but for the accommodation and hospitality industry associated with the hunting trip.

In August, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the wildlife sector of South Africa had experienced noticeable growth over the years and employed around 100 000 people across the value chain.

According to the SA Hunters and Game Conservation website, hunting proclamations, regulations and legislation in SA differ from province to province and it is up to the hunter to be familiar with these rules.

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