Volker Grellmann, Die guten Jaeger (the good hunter) has died. He was the doyen of Namibian professional hunting. He racked up a pile of well-earned accolades and leadership roles. He died of a heart attack early Monday morning, September 16, 2019, at the age of 77.
Volker war ein guter Mann and will always rank as one of the best human beings I was lucky enough to meet. Namibia is a poorer country with the loss of such a marvelous, valuable, sincere, giant of a man. Those who were not in the tourism, hunting and conservation world may not have heard of Volker. Namibia ist sehr bereichert durch seine enormen Beiträge, die er über viele Jahrzehnte geleistet hat (Namibia is much enriched by his tremendous contributions made over many decades.)
His many achievements in support of wildlife management are remarkable. His work to organise and grow the tourism sector in Namibia and his success as a businessman and teacher are formidable. His work will impact generations yet to come.
I met the hunting doyen during my days as the CEO of the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations (Fenata). The Namibia Professional Hunting Association (Napha) was a major member of the federation and Volker was a past president.
Just after independence, Volker joined with Johnnie Hamman who was one of the founders of the (then) Hotel Association of Namibia, and Dieter Glaue the (then) head of the Tour and Safari Association (TASA). They formed the umbrella tourism association, Fenata. Volker and Johnnie told me that Fenata was born at the request of the first Minister of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism Niko Bessinger. The minister wanted to speak with one representative of the tourism, safari and wildlife sector. This way, he would hear the united view on the industry rather than conflicting individual voices.
Aside from his tall and alluring physical bearing, his eyes twinkled when he spoke about hunting. The need for professional and ethical hunting practices and the role of hunting in conservation were important to him. Volker was always ready to regale listeners with facts, figures, photos, news articles and research on related topics.
Volker was a font of information. The July/August 2019 edition of the Observer Connect magazine carries an article about the hunting clash in Botswana. I called on Volker, yet again, to help me publish a relevant and accurate piece about their elephant hunting controversy which impacts Namibia as well. As always, he responded immediately. I never got around to sending him the magazine so he could see the final story.
Back in 2016, I visited Volker at the farm to do an extensive magazine article. He showed me his immense library of photos and old articles and gave me a very detailed interview. Please check online for the December 2015-January 2016 edition of Insight Namibia magazine for the full story.
Born in Wittenberg, Germany in 1942 and immigrating to Namibia in 1952, Volker became a Namibian citizen in 1993. He and his business partner and loving wife Anke, married in 1966. They have two sons, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Anke and Volker launched ANVO hunting safaris 1968-1970. Their motto is ‘conservation through selective hunting’. They founded, supported and ran Eagle Rock Training Academy since 1974 and the Etango Guest Farm since 2003.
Volker did not mince words in venting his intolerance of the single-minded, 'eco-terrorist' types. He scorned their myopic anti-hunting point of view. He said that some of them speak good words about conservation but actually have an anti-hunting agenda. Their internationally reported and ill-informed tantrums over singular wildlife incidents are counter-productive. The populist furore over their words hurts conservation and tourism development in Africa. At the same time, Volker had no use for canned lion hunting, unethical practices in hunting, and poaching.
In 1994, Volker was a founding member of the Namibian Academy of Tourism and Hospitality (Nath). He set up programs to train people to work in the hunting, guiding, tourism sectors. He would be proud today as Nath finally jumped the decades-long hurdle of achieving an updated level of NQA accreditation.
He believed that skills transfer was a golden ticket to the sustainable use of natural resources and productive wildlife management. His programs taught hunting ethics, resource conservation, and environmental awareness. He used training as a weapon to battle poverty and ignorance. And, he raised the quality of life for the hundreds of previously disadvantaged Namibians with whom he worked.
This vibrant man was a teacher. His commitment to training for Namibians of all cultures and skin colours was sincere and consistent. I am not just repeating a kind platitude about my friend. I am shouting loud about a truth I witnessed. Volker did not equate skin colour or ethnic background to the high value he placed on all human beings.
Of the students at his training academy, Volker said in the 2016 interview: “the skills of the indigenous hunting students are outstanding. They have been hunting assistants for years, stealing with their eyes. Watching. Packing the brain. Some are beyond hunting guide levels and have superior tracking capabilities.”
In his illustrious lifelong career, he had held many accolades, awards, memberships and leadership posts. I cannot recount all of them here. In addition to Napha, he was involved with the SWA National Game Committee, the Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations, the African Professional Hunters Association, the Conservancy Association Namibia, the Namibian Academy of Training in Hospitality and the Namatanga Conservancy.
Check out www.africanhuntinggazette.com/volker-grellman-early. This article offers an engaging narrative written by Volker. It offers a good background on the birth of professional hunting in Namibia.
I would be remiss in this tribute if I did not say something about Volker’s sense of humour. He was an excellent ‘straight man’ in a comedy sketch. He could deliver powerfully amusing blows with a completely straight face. When he repeated my American idioms and phrasings trying to vocally duplicate my East Coast accent, he would put me on the floor with laughter. I once told him that he looked like Santa Claus in fatigues checking paw prints and sniffing spoor. He thought that was hysterical.
Many people will be unable to think of hunting, wildlife, and conservation, training, Nath, Fenata or Napha without reference to Volker Grellman. His footprints are too large to miss.
May he rest in eternal peace.
Volker will be laid to rest on his farm at a private family ceremony this weekend. A public memorial will be held at the Christus Kirche in Windhoek on September 29th at 5pm.