A report back on a world first by Chris Mason
Yesterday I was invited to PHUNT. Or more precisely; NHU Africa was invited to participate in the Inaugural International Phunting Event. Phunting means photo-hunting, a clever idea spear-headed by Pangolin photo safari director Toby Jermyn. The goal of phunting is to take photos of various bird, mammal and reptile species within a certain amount of time in a specific location while abiding by the various rules (no speeding, off-roading or lenses longer than 300mm etc) of phunting. The teams are made up of 2 or more people and the team to see and photograph the most animal’s wins. Each animal is scored according to its relative obscurity or lack of, so while a yellow-billed duck might only be worth 3 points, a hippo is worth 40.
Yesterday’s PHUNT took place in Strandfontien Sewerage works (Zeekoevlei conservancy) and yes, the rogue hippo was spotted. I didn’t see it of course, in fact I was disqualified for being late, speeding and being in a team of less than 2 people. I am proud to be the first man disqualified from phunting. It makes me feel accomplished in a scoundrel-like way.
But I digress. Phunting is not just about competing with people for points, but serves a larger and more important purpose. The information and images gathered will be submitted to the MammalMAP project, initiated and run but the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit. What is this MammalMAP you ask? Here is the explanation from their website:
“The aim of MammalMAP is to update the distribution records of all African mammal species. Through collaborations with professional scientists, conservation organisations, wildlife authorities and citizen scientists across Africa, we consolidate all reliable and identifiable evidence (camera trap records, photographs) of current mammal locations into an open-access digital database. The database software automatically generates online distribution maps of all recorded species which are instantly visible and searchable. The information consolidated within MammalMAP will not only yield crucial information for species conservation policies and landscape conservation policies, but provides an excellent platform for educating the public about African mammals and their conservation challenges.”
The act of phunting itself gets one outside, allowing for more fresh air in the lungs and a greater opportunity to develop an appreciation for the natural world. It also has the almost adrenal jolt of ‘getting the shot’. All of these are good things, and when you add to this the fact that you’ll be helping gather information for one of Africa’s most ambitious animal surveys ever attempted you can rest assured that phunting is good, clean fun that won’t leave you with any regrets the next day.
To learn more about MammalMAP go HERE
And for more on Phunting go HERE