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GAME USE ON TWO KENYA RANCHES
A Confidential Report to the Government of Kenya
By Wildlife Services Limited
I.S.C. Parker & A.D. Graham
Wildlife Services Ltd
P.O. Box 30678
GAME USE ON TWO KENYA RANCHES
A Confidential Report to the Government of Kenya
By Wildlife Services Limited
25 copies of this report have been produced.
3 presented to the Hon. Minster for Wildlife & Tourism
Through the Chief Game Warden.
1 presented to Messrs, Arthur Cole Limited.
1 presented to Gianni limited.
20 retained by Wildlife Services Limited.
This report describes the commercial cropping of 820 Thomson's gazelle
(Gazella thomsoni Gunther) and 638 impala (Aepyceros melampus Lichenstein)
on the Kekopey ranch of Arthur Cole Ltd at Gilgil, and a further 500 Thomson's
gazelle and 400 impala on the Suguroi estate of Gianni Ltd in Laikipia. The
work on Kekopey took place between November 1971 and April 1972, including
an initial week's experimenting and 3 two-week periods of full scale operation.
The offiakes on Suguroi were taken in June and July 1972.
The purposes were to investigate the potential for game meat marketing in
Kenya, and to establish techniques for cropping the two species concerned with
particular regard to the attainment of hygiene standards as good as or better than
those applying to the slaughter of domestic livestock. The work was carried out
by Wildlife Services Ltd under contract to the estate owners. At the same time it
was agreed with Government that the results of the work would be made available
to the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
The data presented herein are intended for limited Government circulation
The following stipulations for the production of wild animal meats for
human consumption were laid down by the Kenya Government's Veterinary and
Game Departments in consultation with Wildlife Services Limited:
1. All carcasses were to be bled by severing the carotid arteries while the heart
was still beating.
2. If killed by shooting, only head or upper neck wounds were permissible.
Body wounds automatically meant condemnation owing to inadequate bleeding
and the risk of contamination.
3. Evisceration to be within 60 minutes of slaughter. (Animals larger than
gazelle and impala would be permitted less time. For example, steers in the
Kenya Meat Commission must be eviscerated within 45 minutes of slaughter.)
4. Carcass bone temperature to fall below, 13 C (55 F) within 4 hours of
slaughter, and below 3 C (38 F) within 16 hours. The fall in temperature to be
continuous with no temporary gains.
5. Processing of carcasses to take place in dust and fly-proof conditions.
6. Personnel handling skinned carcasses to be bathed and dressed in clean
clothing, and to be free of disease or wiunhealed sores.
7. Facilities to be continuously available for carcass dressers and handlers to
sterilise tools and hands
8. A minimum supply of 33 litres of sterilised (Chlorinated) water per carcass
handled to be available.
9. Carcasses and viscera to be inspected by a qualified meat inspector of the
Veterinary Department immediately following evisceration.
10. No unweaned immature animals to pass inspection.
11. Transport of carcasses passed fit for human consumption to be in dust-proof
In addition to these Goverrnment stipulations the ranch owners demanded
minimal disturbance of animals because the success of continued cropping would
partly depend on a high degree of tameness.
The cropping team was also required by the distributing agencies to
guarantee all carcasses the customary Islamic blessing to render them acceptable
to Mohammedan consumers. In practice this religious rite (throat-cutting with
incantations) coincided conveniently with hygiene-based bleeding.
Except for 4 gazelle netted, all animals were killed by shooting at night
during the dark phase of the moon. A "Mini Moke" vehicle, chosen for its
cheapness and manoeuvrability carried a driver, gunman and Islamic meat blesser.
On Suguroi estate the gunman also drove, reducing the team to two. On Suguroi
this basic team was augmented by one to two additional teams. Animals were
approached to within 30 70 metres, and dazzled with a 100-watt spotlight. They
were then shot through the brain or neck. All animals on Kekopey were shot with
a silenced .22 rifle firing standard velocity ammunition, chosen because the
bullets travel below the speed of sound and cause minimal disturbance. On
Suguroi the extra teams used unsilenced .22 rifles firing high velocity
ammunition, and the Mini Moke team used a .22 Hornet rifle when working in
thicker vegetation. This was to obtain flatter bullet trajectories, called for by the
longer ranges, and was at the expense of quietness.
Night shooting was indicated to permit close approaches with minimal
disturbance to other animals and to exploit the low ambient temperatures and
the absence of flies. Immediately after shooting the carcasses were bled and
blessed by the Mohammedan and loaded into the hunting car. Each carcass
was tagged with a serial number. Selection was exercised in favour of adults
and biased toward the larger individuals in any group. Not more than twenty
minutes after the first animal was shot the hunting car rendezvoused with a
transport vehicle that took the carcasses for processing. Hunting and processing
continued throughout the night with a target of up to 150 carcasses.
In an effort to speed up the slaughter rates netting was tried. A 500 metre
nylon net (10 inch mesh) was suspended from a ranch fence and a herd of gazelle
driven into it. Four animals were caught, but the carcasses were so badly bruised
from the animals' struggles when enmeshed that they were condemned as unfit
for sale. The technique was therefore abandoned.
The processing complex consisted of a 35 metre overhead rail (No. 301-14
gauge Henderson Door Rail a standard commercial commodity) along which
carcasses moved, attached by meathooks to spreaders on bogies (Figure 1).
The layout of the system is shown diagrammatically in Figure 2. A 10 cm.
layer of wheat straw was laid on the working area under the rail to absorb
blood spills and inhibit dust. This was burned and renewed daily. All workers
showered before starting work and wore clean uniforms, aprons, caps and
gumboots. Chlorinated water from a 9,000 litre tank was gravitated to taps at
every station on the processing line. A bucket of boiling, disinfected water
served every two stations for sterilising implements. The whole system was
lit by a 1 KVA generator.
Carcasses were hung from the hocks in the conventional slaughterhouse
position. (Two sizes of hanger were used to cater for the difference in size
between gazelle and impala.) At station 1 (fig. 2) the carcass was weighed
and hooked up to a spreader by one hindleg that had been partially skinned.
At station 2 the second hindleg was skinned and hooked up. At the same point
the main skin cuts for removing the skins were made. At station 3 skins were
pulled and flensed off, washed to remove dirt and blood and dropped into a tank
of saturated saline solution (NaCI). At station 4 the sternum was split, and the
head, metacarpals and metatarsals removed. At station 5 the carcasses were
eviscerated, the viscera being dropped directly from the carcass into heavy-gauge
polythene bags. The hearts, liver and lungs were kept separate from the other
viscera. After inspection the hearts and livers were hung to cool, and the lungs
and alimentary tracts discarded. At station 6 carcasses were inspected by the
Gov'ernent inspector and then pushed further down the rail to cool until ready
for weighing and transporting to a commercial cold store in Nairobi (120 km from
Kekopey and 200 km from Suguroi).
At the outset the Game Department stipulated that all sales of carcasses
should be to or through the Kenya Meat Commission. The KMC itself had
expressed willingness to undertake game meat marketing and was confident that
it could be done. It was agreed with the KMC that the producer would sell
carcasses at Sh 7.00 per kilo and charge a handling fee of Sh 0.60 per kilo. After
December 1971 the KNIC withdrew from this arrangement as it had been unable
to sell all the carcasses then produced, and did not have storage space for
Permission was then granted for the producers to sell directly to meat
wholesalers with the provision that the KMC still received a cess of Sh 0.10 per
MNessrs Kenya Cold Storage Limited agreed to take all carcasses from
Kekopey and Suguroi after the KMIC withdrawal. Kenya Cold Storage undertook
transport from the field into Nairobi, and provided cold storage and sales outlets.
They paid the producers Sh 3.75 per kilo carcass weight for output from Kekopey,
but lowered this to Sh 2.10 per kilo for all carcasses from Suguroi.
In addition to these local sales, Wildlife Services Ltd sought markets
outside Kenya; though a certain amount of interest was shown from several
sources, no orders were secured.
In 50 working nights spread over the dark phases of the moon in
November and December 1971, and January and April 1972, 820 Thomson's
gazelle and 638 impala were killed. The 50 night period included an 8 day
experiment phase in which not more than 15 animals a night were taken.
Including this experimental period, the nightly kill averaged 29.2 animals. The
total carcass weight produced for sale was 22,000 kg, and the average dressed
carcass weights were gazellelO.40 kgand impala 25.77 kg. This offtake was
below that authorised of 1,000 gazelle and 700 impala for two main reasons:
1. The terrain on Kekopey was unexpectedly rough making approaches
to animals difficult and slow and thereby limiting the number that
could be taken, and
2. The limit of 1 ton of carcasses that could be accepted nightly by
Messrs. Kenya Cold Storage Limited.
Distribution of labour and typical times for task completion are summarised
in Table 1. The time from slaughter to evisceration averaged 47.2 minutes
(range 10 95). Those carcasses which exceeded the maximum time limit all
passed inspection. The low nocturnal temperatures characteristic of the area
Minutes to complete
Task Men Impala Gazelle
Unloading 2 0.5 0.5
Weighing 2 0.5 0.5
Initial skin cuts 1 1.0 0.75
Skinning 2 3.5 1.5
Sternum cutting, removal
Lower limbs and head 2 1.5 1.25
Evisceration 2 2.5 2.0
Total 11 9.5 6.5
Viscera 1* 1.5 1.5
Carcasses 1* 1.5 1.5
Combined total 13 12.5 9.5
TABLE 1: Shows typical times for task completion on the "gralloch".
Impala take longer owing to their larger size. Only 10 men are actually
on duty owing to some overlap in tasks. In practice the dressers
responded with shorter times to completion when presented with larger
numbers of carcasses.
These men were not essential to the operation, but were supplied to
assist the Government officers.
(nightly minima recorded during the project ranged from 3.3 12.2 C) resulted
in carcass cooling within the stipulated limits.
Table 2 gives an analysis of condemnation rates for the first 1,156 animals
taken on Kekopey. The remaining 302 animals are not expected to affect these
results significantly. Condemnation from all causes totalled 3.3% of animals
Of the 820 gazelle 53.2% were males. 46.8% females. Of the 638 impala
49.3% were males and 50.7% females.
As Suguroi is twice as far from Nairobi as Kekopey is, and as the price per
kilo carcass weight %%as much lower than at Kekopey (Sh 2.10 as against Sh 3.75),
the cropping rate on Suguroi had to be raised. This in turn necessitated increased
cold storage facilities in Nairobi to take up to 2 tons per night.
It was intended that the target crop of 900 animals should be taken in 7
hunting nights (130 per night) by increasing the number of hunting teams. In
practice 10 days were needed, 6 in June and 4 in July. This was caused by
1. Poor bleeding
4. Wounds and septicaemia
5. Contamination during
6. Unweaned inmmnatures
7. Shot through body
8. Bruising through netting
No. % of total No. % of total
2 0.30 2 0.17
3 0.45 5 0.43
1 0.15 1
14 2.09 15
4 0.60 4
24 3.59 38
TABLE 2: Shows the proportion and cause of condemnation in 487 impala and
669 Thomson's gazelle from Kekopey ranch.
the inability of the additional hunting teams in the June session to achieve a high
enough kill rate (15.8 and 4.2 per night respectively against the Wildlife Services
team average of 52.2). These teams were replaced by two other teams for the July
session in which a combined average of 118 animals per night were taken. The
poor results of June's additional teams arose from their inexperience and
unsuitable vehicles. A total of 500 gazelle and 397 impala was increased by the
slaughter of 4 unweaned impala found after the parent had been shot, and by the
accidental cropping of 2 female reedbuck and 4 Grant's gazelle. The overall
average rate of kill was 91 per night.
The total weight of carcasses sold was 13,162 kg. Dressed carcass weights
averaged 9.7 kg (gazelle) and 22.5 kg (impala). These are slightly lower than
those obtained at Kekopey. With the gazelle this difference is attributable to the
lower proportion of males (35.6% males to 64.4% females) in the offiake, and
with the impala it is suspected that the average age of animal taken was much
lower than at Kekopey (the sex ratios being exactly 50% males and 50% females).
Both reasons are believed attributable to the extensive shooting that is undertaken
regularly on Suguroi.
The main camp and processing line at Suguroi had to be situated much
further from the concentration areas f both gazelle and impala. This resulted
In longer times between slaughter and evisceration, which averaged 63 minutes.
Some carcasses were not eviscerated for as long as 2 hours. Nevertheless no
carcasses were condemned for this reason.
Similar nocturnal temperatures to those of Kekopey prevailed at Suguroi
giving good carcass cooling.
Table 3 gives an analysis of condemnation rates for the animals taken on
Suguroi. Condemnation for pathological conditions were similar to those on
Kekopey (Suguroi 1.0%, Kekopey 1.3%), but rejections for body shots were
higher on Suguroi (3% against 1.3%), and are believed to be a further result of
using inexperienced teams.
At the outset of the cropping on Kekopey it was agreed that all meat
inspection should be carried out by staff of the Veterinary Department. In
November and December 1971, and January 1972 inspection was undertaken
by officials from the Kenya Meat Commission Factory at Athi River. After
this the Veterinary Department refused to provide staff, claiming a lack of
communication between themselves and the Game Department as the reason.
This last minute refusal to provide inspectors caused the cancellation of
1. Poor bleeding
4. Wounds and septicaemia
5. Contamination during
6. Unweaned irmnatures
7. Shot through body
No. % of total
No. % of total No. %of total
6 1.50 20 3.97 26 2.98
16 4.00 20 3.97 36 3.99
TABLE 3: Shows the proportion and cause of condemnation in 400 impala and
503 Thomson's gazelle from Suguroi ranch.
operations in Mlarch at considerable expense to the operators. As a stop-gap two
Game department Veterinarians were seconded from the UNDP/FAO Kenya
Wildlife Project, inconveniencing all parties.
All carcasses were disposed of at an average price of Sh 3.43 per kilo.
Demand was poor despite a 6 month public relations campaign carried out by
Messrs. Morgan Orr & Associates to promote the product. Hotels and
restaurants reported little tourist interest in game meat contrary to
Overseas outlets in Ghana, Libya, Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Addis Ababa and
Hong Kong were approached. Trial samples sent to Ghana were never
acknowledged despite a professed interest in game meat. All other outlets
approached showed interest, but being unfamiliar with the product were very
cautious. It was apparent that personal contact with potential buyers was
essential to establish sales. An approach to the Ministry of Tourism and
Wildlife to sponsor a sales tour to the Arabian Gulf markets was turned down on
the grounds that such sponsorship should come from the private sector. As
Government has not given any long term contract to the private sector to
develop the commercial aspects of wild life use, such as takes place being on
the basis of short term revocable permits or as with the subject of this report
experimentally, the private sector was not prepared to invest in expensive sales
trips whose costs would be recoverable only through long term operation. As a
result no overseas sales were achieved.
Several buyers in Europe showed keen interest in buying Kenya game
meats. However current veterinary regulations preclude the import of fresh meat
into Europe from tropical Africa.
International airlines serving Nairobi were approached in the hope that
they might serve game meat on their flights. Interest was expressed, but no orders
placed. Small quantities of impala and gazelle meat were smoked, or made into
pates and sausages by the NAS Butchery Ltd. These products proved popular as
luxury items, but moved slowly on account of their very high prices.
Marketing was hampered by the limited cold storage space available in
All skins were sold to Messrs. Nairobi Hides and Skis Ltd. At Sh 35.00
per gazelle and Sh 40.00 per impala skin. A number of male gazelle and impala
horns were sold to curio dealers in Nairobi at Sh 5.00 per gazelle horn and
Sh 5.00 per pair of impala horns.
Table 4 gives a breakdown of costs and income from the combined
Kekopey and Suguroi operations. The figures shown do not reveal all the
financial outlay that was required to set up the cropping programmes. Much of
the equipment and transport bought had a useful life in excess of the very short
time taken by the experiment. It was therefore hired to the programme at set
rates, the equipment (including the gralloch, knives, piping, electric wiring,
uniforms etc.) at Sh 100.00 per day in the field, and the Mini Moke at Sh 1.00 per
mile. The figures do not reveal the cost of time spent organising the operation as
theoretically such expenditure is more rightly considered debitable to a much
longer term commitment.
c) Extra Hunters
2. Transport Hire
3. Cropping equipment and tentage hire
4. Aircraft use
5. Expendable materials (salt, straw etc.)
8. Refrigeration hire (Kekopey operation only)
9. Marketing and Publicity,
10. Game Department fees
EXCESS of Income over Costs = Sh 65,229.18
TABLE 4: Costs and Income from the combined Kekopey and Suguroi
There were two major objectives to the programmes on Kekopey and
Suguroi to establish techniques for cropping Thomson's gazelle and impala (the
most widespread, numerous and accessible game species on private land) and to
investigate the potential market for game meat in Kenya. In that 2,358 antelope
were cropped, their skins and 35 tons of dressed carcasses marketed and a profit
of Sh 65,229.00 made. the experiment wvas a success. However, there are many
qualifications to the achievement.
The work did establish workable cropping techniques for impala and
gazelle. However they are not easily transferable, either to new situations or
inexperienced operators. There are several reasons for this. Firstly certain
aspects require high standards of proficiency. This was demonstrated by
the comparatively poor kill rates achieved by all but one of the additional
hunting teams used on Suguroi, despite the fact that all were experienced
professional hunters. It illustrated the high degree of skill called for in this
Although a 12 man team processed over 100 carcasses a night, and could
have handled many more, this was achieved by the exercise of considerable
skill. These men drew on 12 years' experience of various game cropping
projects, worked long hours under exacting conditions and displayed high
Although Thomson's gazelle and impala are accessible to commercially
viable cropping, the production of carcasses and skins to acceptable standards set
by the Kenya Government is, weight for weight, more difficult and expensive
than it is for domestic stock. This is because wild animals are necessarily
unpredictable in their movements, availability and condition. In addition
cropping operations are at the mercy of adverse weather.
While the work described here has quite clearly set a base-line for
development, it has demonstrated the need for more generally applicable
techniques. Both on Kekopey and Suguroi, the management and existing ranch
staff are quite capable of taking the number of animals cropped by Wildlife
Services Ltd by themselves, although initially not with the same speed and
precision. Had they done so in their own time, using the skins only as their
source of revenue and disregarding meat production, their gross costs are
unlikely to have exceeded Sh 10,000.00. Their income would have been
Sh 77,165.00, greatly exceeding the Sh 32,614.59 they received after sharing
the profit shown in table 4 with Wildlife Services Ltd. From the ranchers'
point of view the production of hygienic game meat by employing a team with
the necessary expertise to do this reduced their potential income very
substantially. Repetition of such an exercise would only be justified if either
the price of meat increased very substantially, or they undertook the work on
The sale of game meat encountered indifferent results. Demand for it was
unexpectedly low, particularly from the luxury meat consumers. Reference to
results of fresh or frozen game meat marketing in Tanzania, Zambia, Rhodesia
and South Africa show similar outcomes, and the only recorded successes in this
field appear in Uganda and around Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as anomalies. The
general rejection of fresh game needs explanation before future extensive
investment in marketing it is warranted.
Further obstacles to game meat production in Kenya arise from the
shortage of cold storage space and International Veterinary restrictions on
exports to Europe and America- the most obvious markets. Both of these
will require extensive investment in equipment and research to overcome.
This is unlikely to be forthcoming from the private sector of the economy so
long as the individual does not have long term guarantees to be able to develop
and manage wild life on his land in accordance with his own plans. For as long
As the Government denies the landowner ownership, or at least long term
control of his wild life stock, it is unrealistic to expect the private sector to
invest large sums of money in the provision of expensive equipment or
In view of the difficulties besetting the sale and production of wild life
meat, various forms of processing warrant consideration. In Rhodesia and South
Africa a good demand exists for high quality game biltong, making this a
profitable form of game use. However demand for this is undeveloped north
of the Zambezi. Meat could be canned for either human or pet consumption,
but canning is not a cheap form of meat processing. Demand for canned meat
is lo\\ in Africa, as demonstrated by the demand for corned beef from the
KMC only 0.5% of production being retained for Kenya consumption. There
are possibilities for selling canned game meat in developed western countries.
but these have yet to be explored. Current sentiment in several western
countries is such that selling game meat for pets would be a risk. For example
a major British pet beef manufacturer was forced to abandon the canning of
horse and donkey meat for pets through public pressure. This could also arise
with African game meat.
An alternative use for game carcasses is the production of carcass meal.
Hitherto this has been scorned by wild life authorities allegedly for low
profitability but we suspect deeper psychological reasons ("game", with its
connection with "royalty" being too good for a powdered stock food!) However,
it should be pointed out that all carcasses can be converted into meat meal
irrespective of type or origin. Minimal hygiene standards pertain to carcass
handling prior to processing. Demand for carcass meals is rising both locally and
internationally and prices are likewise increasing. If produced correctly there
would be no barriers to the export elsewhere. The production of carcass meal
deserves careful consideration by anyone interested in commercial game
cropping. If foreign made carcass meal processing equipment is exorbitantly
expensive, the possibility of designing and making such equipment locally should
In conclusion, the results achieved on Kekopey and Suguroi are a
technical success that has not been attained elsewhere. However, rather than
prove a case for commercial game cropping, they illustrate the numerous
problems that go with it. While giving grounds for optimism, they emphasise that
we are only at the beginning of a long experimental period if the case is to be