Heusers & Hunting

ADI, Kim Dijkman and Facebook persona “Jay Marie” have been publishing false information on social media, via private emails, messages, news letters and magazines about Emoya, Savannah and Minunette Heuser regarding so-called inappropriate associations with hunting.

Here are the real facts. Decide for yourself who we are and what we stand for.

The facts have been disclosed and are known to all our partners. We have never been secretive about our family relationships or ties.

Below is a brief history of:

• Myself, Savannah Heuser
• My mother, Minunette Cohen Heuser
• My father, Heinz Heuser
• My brothers, Erwin and Reinhard Heuser
• The farms

Savannah Heuser

I was born in on 25 June 1996 and was raised by my mother, Minunette. I never knew my father. Heinz Heuser passed away on 3 September 1996 and in his will bequeathed my brother and I his farms and other assets.

I have dedicated 1,000 hectares of my inheritance to Emoya Sanctuary, which is home to misplaced, mistreated, neglected, abused and retired big cats from circuses, zoos and private owners all over the world. I do not expect rental or any form of income off this property as this is my way of paying it forward.

I decided to work with big cats at the age of 13. Three years later, in 2013, we received the first lioness at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary. I have worked part-time at Emoya since I was 16 years old and full time since the age of 18. I do not receive a salary. The last five years have not been an easy road. But I would not change it for the world and could not have achieved this dream was it not for my dad. We named the farm he left us “Bahati,” which means to have good fortune (and a little good luck).

I am passionate about Africa and hope lives on in my heart for this great continent, her people and her wildlife. Our next project, Emoya Wilderness, is one we will achieve with the support and guidance of the directors of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, like-minded people from all over the world and, of course, a little luck.

My mother, Minunette Cohen Heuser

Minunette is the third of four children. Her elder brother is the Gauteng and Mpumalanga (South African regions) operations manager for a large South African corporation. Her sister is a dance teacher who has lived all her life in Bloemfontein, South Africa.. Her younger brother is a dentist and lives in Australia. Minunette is a qualified physiotherapist.

Minunette’s father died in a freak motor vehicle accident before she and Heinz were married. I know my grandfather enjoyed a Scotch along with some olives and handful of peanuts when he got home every night, and that he hunted for biltong (meat) every winter. He told my mom that the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm and to strive to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking, he said. Advice that my mom naturally passed on to me.

Minunette’s mother, whom I call “Gran” (and known to all our visitors and volunteers as “Ouma”), has lived on our farm since 2011. She was the chef at Bahati Estates when the 4-star lodge, Bushman’s Hide, was still in operation for short-term visitors and volunteers. Bushman’s Hide closed at the end of 2015 and since then has been used as accommodation for mostly volunteers. Previously, she owned a pet shop for 40 years.

My father, Heinz Heuser

Heinz died when I was two months old. I have no memories of my dad. I know only what other people have told me about him. I don’t know his family. I have a brother, Reinhard and three cousins of whom I’ve met one while (literally) dancing on stage; both of us being in the South African team competing overseas.

Heinz was second generation German, born in South Africa. He grew up In Kwazulu-Natal. Both his parents passed away before my father and mother met. Their father left his family when Heinz and his brother were very young. Their mother was poor and the boys spent the weeks at school where they were fed by an orphanage, and on weekends they went home to their mother.

Heinz suffered from severe dyslexia and was told to leave school at the age of ±15 after failing grade 8 repeatedly. Heinz applied for a job at the Natal Parks Board as a ranger. He was turned down and told he was “stupid” because he could not read or write adequately. On that day, Heinz promised himself that he would one day own his own park and employ game rangers.

Despite his dyslexia, Heinz was gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit and a brilliant business mind. He worked hard and went the extra mile. He also never let go of his dream to own a farm and in the mid 1980s started buying small farms in the Waterberg. Twenty years after making that promise to himself, he was at the threshold of realising his dream.

Heinz had put a lot of effort into the various properties. He created a vast, open land without fencing so that antelope could roam freely. He also re-introduced many wildlife species to the Waterberg area and spent millions of rand on roads, boreholes and waterlines, and, every winter, on extra feed (grass, lucern and other specialised feeds). My mom told me my dad did not believe in culling surplus animals, he would rather buy more land or more feed during droughts.

At the time of his death, Heinz had turned 1,500 hectares into a prolific area of more than 20,000 hectares, known as Kwalata Wilderness.

I am aware that my father hunted a few trophies during his lifetime. During the years that he and my mother were together, he never killed an animal. Before my dad passed away, Kwalata accommodated a few trophy hunters from overseas. It was only after my dad’s death that the board of trustees appointed to manage Kwalata Wilderness decided to turn it into a hunting operation to help fund the costs of maintaining the various farms. The farm was managed by the trust from 1996 to 2005. My mother, Reinhard and I had no control during this time.

Although I do not remember much, as I was young, I have heard those years were difficult for both my mother and Reinhard and many restrictions were placed on them.

My brothers, Erwin and Reinhard Heuser

My brother, Erwin, died in a car accident when he was 18 (1996). A week later, my father committed suicide leaving behind my brother Reinhard (16), myself (2 months old) and my mom. Both Reinhard and Erwin were sons of Heinz’s first marriage.

Soon after Heinz’s death, Reinhard’s biological mother cut all ties with us and, as a result, we didn’t see Reinhard for many years. Reinhard and I don’t have a close relationship; we see each other every few months at family business meetings as the estate is quite tangled.

In 2004/2005, Reinhard decided he wanted to take over from the trust management and proceeded with his wishes, he was 24 years old at the time. My mother supported him but did not share his vision of a hunting farm. The farm was split in two: what is now Bahati and Kwalata. Reinhard is a professional hunter and hunts game on Kwalata as well as other concessions in Southern Africa.

Most farms in this area practice bow and rifle hunting for both meat as well as trophy hunting. Neither I nor my mother are professional hunters. We do not hunt.

The farms

The two farms (Bahati and Kwalata) are managed totally independently and are not involved with each other in any way. Kwalata Wilderness did on a few occasions use the Bushman’s Hide facilities for guests.

Years of online marketing (from 1996 to 2004/2005) connected the different lodges. Some online listings were never removed when the property was divided between Reinhard and myself. Every now and then we still receive booking enquiries for Bushman’s Hide, even though it does not exist anymore and has been deregistered with the SA Tourism Board.

What about culling?

From time to time, free-roaming antelope on Bahati need to be culled. We then use professionals. We would rather a professional put an animal out of misery than see it suffer.

During 2016, when the feeding protocol for the big cats at Emoya was changed. Emoya had to find new suppliers. During this time period we had to cull free roaming antelope and our grass-fed Nguni Stud to feed the lions. ADI was aware of this but no funds were send to accommodate the higher meat prices nor was Emoya ever refunded for carcasses purchased or animals we had to cull to supply 6,000 kg of meat per month of which the lions rescued by ADI, consumed 4,500 kg. This continued for months.


Firstly, I am my own person. Reinhard is a professional hunter and just because he is my brother, that does not make me a professional hunter. Just as my mother being a physiotherapist doesn’t make me a physiotherapist and my uncle being a dentist doesn’t automatically make me a dentist. Just as being a dentist does not make my uncle a trophy hunter (referring to Dr Walter Palmer who hunted Cecil). Do we hate Reinhard because he hunts? No, we don’t. We are family. We do not agree or condone with some of his choices or actions. Just as many people may not agree that hundreds of thousands of rands per month are being spend on the big cats at Emoya while there are children starving somewhere in Africa.

Secondly, we live very remotely so cooperation between neighbouring estates is crucial. In times of natural disasters, like fires or floods, we absolutely have to work together to minimise damage and save lives. Whether you are a hunter or not, help is given and help is accepted.

Thirdly, Emoya works closely with respected and ethical professionals and partners. We do not and could not put up a front of being ethical to the outside world and unethical behind the scenes. Professionals such as Dr Peter Caldwell, Dr Johan Marais and Dr Gerard Steenkamp (Saving the Survivors), who we work with and are in contact with Emoya on a nearly daily basis, would not work with unethical institutions or people.

Finally, conservation is a complex issue and needs clever investigation and solutions rather than foolish conclusions and actions which only harm what we set out to protect in the first place. It is only when we all finally work together that we will get somewhere. And the clock is ticking.

As always,
Savannah Heuser


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