Volker Grellmann: A life for sustainable use and expert hunting - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Volker Grellmann: A life for sustainable use and expert hunting

Avatar of inke inke - 18. September 2019 - Environment

Volker Grellmann in 2017 at the Annual General Meeting of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association.

Dirk Heinrich

He pioneered the sustainable utilisation of game in Namibia and advocated hunting expertise, he campaigned for game on commercial farms to become the property of the farmer and he was a founding member of NAPHA, the Namibia Professional Hunting Association. More recently he was NAPHA’s ombudsman for many years and trained Namibians of all population groups to become hunting guides, professional hunters or hunting assistants. We fondly remember Volker Grellmann, one of the country's first professional hunters.

Up until the early 1970s all wildlife in Namibia, then South West Africa, was the property of the state. Farmers hunted some of the game on their farm for use in the kitchen. Otherwise, antelope were seen as competing for grazing with cattle and small livestock, especially in the 1950s. Farms were then touted as being ‘free of wildlife’, which was considered a great advantage. Predators were persecuted for decades until lions, spotted hyenas and wild dogs were eradicated on commercial farms.

Some farmers, however, disagreed and took good care of the game animals on their respective farms. Volker Grellmann and his wife Anke founded ANVO Hunting Safaris. Grellmann had dedicated himself to wildlife conservation and trophy hunting, and he was able to win over more farmers for his ideas. Some public servants, on the other hand, were initially less than impressed. Stoffel Rochér, who from 1957 until 1988 held various posts in the nature conservation department, said that Grellmann was the link between nature conservation officials and hunters, farmers as well as the private sector, and that he assisted him (Rochér) in drawing up the legislation. According to Rochér, especially the legislation on trophy hunting bears Grellmann's stamp.

In an interview Grellmann once recounted the story of how he roped in the boxing legend Max Schmeling in 1973 to convince legislators that the game on farms should become the property of the farmers and that trophy hunting would support nature conservation (Gondwana History, volume 2). Grellmann had learnt from ANVO member Dieter Metzger that Max Schmeling was in South Africa for the South African Multi-National Games. He knew that Schmeling was an avid hunter and after some detective work with the phone he found out where Schmeling was staying and finally got to speak to him. Grellmann invited Schmeling to come for a trophy hunt, and to his delight the famous boxer agreed immediately.

Volker Grellmann welcomes his guest, Max Schmeling, at the airport in 1973. (from: SWA Journal 1974, p. 75)

For twelve days Schmeling stayed on various farms that had joined the ANVO project. The former heavyweight champion was enthralled by the country, its nature and its people. Volker Grellmann, and his fellow campaigner Hubertus Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, then chairman of the hunters' association, indicated to the Chairman of the SWA Legislative Assembly, Adolf Brinkmann, that the high-profile guest would like to attend a meeting of the assembly. The wish was granted and Max Schmeling was even given the opportunity to address the House for 15 minutes. He raved about his hunting experiences and the country’s unique natural environment. This convinced the Members of the Legislative Assembly to hear the ideas that visionary farmers had on hunting.

Grellmann also proposed that communities in communal rural areas should be able to benefit from wildlife. According to Stoffel Rochér this was taken into account by the lawmakers and subsequently made it possible for Grellmann’s hunting safari company to obtain the first concession in a communal area. Grellmann set up a hunting camp in former Damaraland, in today's Kunene region. This hunting camp was the forerunner of Palmwag Lodge & Camp.

Grellmann was in Damaraland in 1981 when the worst drought of the century killed 90 percent of the game population in that region. He tried to feed some animals near Palmwag Camp, but that was merely a drop in the ocean. The following year communal farmers south of the veterinary fence encountered constant problems with lions because the number of the big cats had almost doubled thanks to the countless weakened animals. Now that the natural prey had gone, the lions went after the already decimated herds of communal farmers. Again, Grellmann was called upon to intervene.

Born on 19 June 1942 in Germany, Volker Grellmann came to Namibia (South West Africa) at the age of ten. After completing school he studied fashion design and marketing in Munich. Later, a safari put him on a life-changing different course. In 1966 he married Anke; two sons resulted from the marriage.

Volker Grellmann was not only a founding member of NAPHA but also of the NGC (SWA National Game Committee) in 1980, FENATA (Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations), APHA (African Professional Hunters Association), CANAM (Conservancy Association Namibia), NATH (Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality) and the Namatanga Communal Conservancy. In 2000 he founded the Eagle Rock Professional Hunting Academy Namibia (ERPHAN). He was the President of NAPHA from 1983 to 1991 and has served in numerous other positions in national and international associations. He was a member of countless societies and committees and received accolades for his many achievements.

The “father” of the Namibian hunting industry passed away in the early morning of 16 September 2019. 

Volker Grellman in 1982 evaluating lion tracks with Damara-speaking communal farmers. The big cats had killed the cow in the foreground the night before. Grellmann was asked to shoot the lions because they started to attack cattle after 90 percent of the wildlife had perished the previous year during devastating drought conditions.
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