Russian surgeon-turned-hunter is making a fortune offering wealthy tourists a chance to kill endangered species
George Ragozin believes hunting leads to animal conservation and has started a hunting ground in the Limpopo province of South Africa which is larger than the Moscow zoo
George Ragozin realized that his career as a doctor will never pay as good as his other passion — big game hunting. Now, he is offering trophy-seeking foreigners the chance to slaughter a range of exotic animals right from elephants to lions in extravagant, big-budget packages.
The hunting packages, some of which cost up to $550,000, include accommodation, food, beer, and wine, along with a daily "washing service".
Some of these packages start at $5,000 for a 10-day safari hunting wildebeest and zebra, $21,000 for a male and a female lion and $34,000 for a fortnight of “leopard baiting”, the Mirror reports. The most expensive packages constitute hunting a white rhino over five days or shooting at elephants for over 12 days. These can cost up to $55,000.
What's more? For $550,000, the hunter, who is often described as the 'Crazy Russian', offers a seven-day trip to stalk and kill a critically endangered species of the black rhino.
Of course, these costs do not take into consideration firearms, ammunition, chartering aircraft, shipping of trophies nor tipping his team members.
That said, his trips are completely booked until 2020, he claims.
According to Ragozin, all his hunting expeditions are licensed and legal, including those in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Namibia.
The businessman became notorious in Russia after being accused of grooming children to hunt at a young age. On his website, pictures show him posing with two of his daughters, Ksenia and Dana, after kills when they were young.
One South African source for the Mirror said: “Elephant populations are down 30 percent in the last 10 years. So why is hunting them still allowed? A hundred years ago, the population of African elephants stood at 10 million. That figure is now a miserly 400,000.”
However, the 'Crazy Russian' claims to have loyal followers across the world, including Americans, Germans, Spaniards, Slovaks, and Slovenians.
In one montage, Ragozin is described as the “embodiment” of Russian hunting pride in Africa. “A legend who is loved, respected and admired all over the trophy world", it says. “Foreigners jokingly call him 'Crazy Russian'. He is a highly goal-oriented person in what he does. He's very decisive and persistent in achieving ambitious goals in trophy hunting.”
Ragozin's hunting business now secures a whopping $1.5 million turnover.
“I am Moscow born and bred,” he said. "After school, I continued my family tradition and entered the surgical department at Perviy Moscow State Medical Sechenov Institute. I was really keen on becoming a doctor, but receiving a salary of $300 USD was so humiliating. I married during my student years and there was no way I could feed a family with such income."
He has also built a zoo near his house and a hunting ground in the Limpopo province of South Africa, which houses 120 animals and is larger than the Moscow Zoo.
According to him, hunting leads to animal conservation. He admits that the zoo is a loss-making venture but boasts that he's doing far more than ecological groups who fail to help animals the way they claim to do.
"Not a single green or eco-organization offered a hand in running this zoo,” he said. “I take all these organizations with a fair bit of skepticism as, to my mind, they work a lot more for the public than for nature. I believe that hunting is conservation and that hunters take much better care of nature than anyone else. One example: when South Africa legalized trophy hunting, the number of animals grew eight times. Taking care of animals is a priority of any hunting business. The link is obvious — the more animals, the better business. This is why hunters all around the world are the best donors.”
Having said that, Ragozin has a professional hunter’s license for dangerous game and is a member of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, Safari Club International (SCI) and the International Professional Hunters Association (IPHA), the Mirror reports.
Sergey Yastrzhembsky, 64, a former spokesman to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, supports Ragozin's activities.
“South Africa is one of the brightest and most convincing examples of how a properly organized trophy hunting can become a highly profitable business,” he said. “It creates workplaces, revenue that brings taxes to the budget, improves living standards of local communities, provides the market with high-quality meat, and helps to develop tourism. Forty years ago there were half a million animals, from jackals to elephants, in South Africa — when the country switched to modern trophy hunting model. Now, there is a total of 20 million animals in South Africa alone. About 10,000 foreigners who go trophy hunting generate from $900 million to $1 billion in revenues.”