One of the greatest hunting legends, conservationists and hunting and wildlife writers of our time is Ron Thomson. With 60 years of experience in the nature conservation and wildlife industry in southern Africa, he commands respect from hunters and conservationists and is described by some as a living legend. Others label him as a hunting icon.
Thomson has made a multitude of contributions to this industry, as far as London and the European Union (EU) and when he starts talking you can only listen carefully.
“I am definitely not a ‘trophy hunter’ and never have been,” he says. “I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari industry. I am not a game farmer either, but I have administratively managed professional hunters and safari operators in my capacity as a state game warden.”
Thomson is 80 years old this year and began honing his career in 1959 when he joined the then Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) Department of National Parks and Game Management as its first cadet gamekeeper at the age of 20. For 24 years he gained experience in practical wildlife management and national park management in Southern Africa. He was the head of several national parks in Rhodesia, where he managed the wild animal population. After that he was head of nature conservation in the former Ciskei for a year and for three years as director of the former Bophuthatswana National Park Board.
Thomson may be considered a hunting icon, but he hunted for a different reason than the obvious. “As part of my official work in the national parks to control, among other things, problem animals, I gained a lot of experience in the ‘management hunt’ of elephants, buffalo, lions, leopards and hippos,” he says.
Thomson is also known for the pioneering work he did between 1964 and 1970 in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley with the capture of black rhinos. His thesis at university was also entitled “The factors influencing the survival and distribution of black rhinos in Rhodesia”.
He then turned to the hunting industry and worked for three years as a professional hunter in the Great Karoo, where he guided foreign hunters to capture their plains game trophies.
“However, I discovered that professional hunting was not my forte and then began working as an investigative wildlife journalist in South Africa for 30 years.” He has written 15 books and hundreds of magazine articles on wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of his books have been used as textbooks in wildlife management at university level.
Thomson is also a trained ecologist and was a member of the Institute of Biology in London for 20 years and a registered chartered biologist for the EU for 20 years.
Animal rights activism today creates a big problem for people like Thomson who believe that managed hunting is an important part of nature conservation.
He was a founding member of the True Green Alliance (TGA) and for the duration of 2016 he was its president. In January 2017, he was appointed CEO. He is also a board member of the Sustainable Use Coalition of Southern Africa (SUCo-SA).
“The TGA is affiliated with South Africa’s wildlife industry insofar as they undertake to help fight the conservation industry’s battles to combat the malicious actions of the South African and international animal rights movement.”
Urgent surgery required
At his ripe old age, his health begins to fail and Thomson needs an urgent and unavoidable triple bypass operation. This accident came suddenly and the operation cannot be postponed.
A fundraising effort has been launched with the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) at the helm. So far they have reached just over half of the target of R500 000 to cover the costs of Thomson’s operation.
- The association appealed to people to make a contribution to Thomson’s medical expenses and give him a chance to continue with the excellent conservation work he is doing. Visit PHASA’s website to make a contribution.