Cecil the lion - photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Cecil the lion – photo courtesy: Wikipedia

When Cecil, the famous African lion, was shot and killed in Zimbabwe by an American dentist on a hunting trip, global outrage erupted. Ever since, public discussion of the incident has centered on the ethics of big game hunting and conservation. The one discussion that is missing, is the matter of putting so much trust in local guides. In this case, the dentist, who is now being sought for extradition, says he relied on the expertise of his local guides to ensure his hunt was legal.

No matter where you stand on the Cecil shooting, I want shift the conversation to a lesson we can learn about reliance on local guides and your personal responsibility when you are outside of U.S. borders. In the end, the responsibility IS yours.

I travel around the world fishing for some of the largest and most unusual species that I can find. I rely on local guides in the countries that I am visiting to get to the best locations with the best fishing opportunities.

I do trust my guides because the skeptical journalist in me thoroughly researches them before I ever book a trip. In Ireland, some loughs require no license to fish, others do; In Scotland, it is illegal to fish in some places on Sunday; in Southeast Asia, it is illegal to fish for the giant Mekong catfish in the wild and in most countries there are very specific licenses and requirements that must be followed.

Blind trust can get you into a lot of trouble.

You have likely heard the stories of hikers taken captive because they accidentally crossed a border, or fines levied against anglers who did not know the local laws or did not have proper licenses. As trusting as we like to be, the truth is, there are many guides in many countries who will do just about anything for a buck…including posing as a guide when they are no more qualified than a random local off the street.

Here are several ways that I recommend digging a little deeper the next time you hire a guide to take you hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing or any other outdoor activity in a foreign country:

  1. Ask for credentials. Don’t just ask if they have credentials, ask what credentials they have – then, dig deeper to find out what those mean.
  2. Ask your guides for specifics on local laws, licenses, regulations and restrictions for your activity – then, check it out yourself.
  3. Do your homework on the guide or company you hire to see how long they have been in business and look for reviews.
  4. Contact the governing organization in the country you are visiting for the sport you are doing. For example, Inland Fisheries Ireland is the governing body of fish management and conservation in Ireland. I contacted them to ask specific questions about fishing regulations in the country and also utilized this resource to connect to a guide that they trust in the country.
  5. If the company or guide you hired assures you they have all licenses and legalities covered, as for the proof to verify. It is essential to do you due diligence for your own protection.

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