In Memoriam: Anno Hecker 1928-2015
December 2015, Volume 13-6

Anno Hecker died at the age of 87 years in October at his home in Germany. His unrepeatable career included stints as tsetse control officer, lecturer at the College of African Wildlife Management in Mweka, Tanzania, and project leader of the German Mweka support project between 1955 and 1968. Upon return to Germany he managed for 23 years, until his retirement, a forestry district, now a national park, in the Eifel Mountains. His lifelong passion was hunting – in Africa and Germany.

Vol13_6_art15Anno Hecker relocated in 1955 to Tanganyika to manage eucalyptus plantations, but the promised job did not materialize and Anno signed on as tsetse control officer. His main task was the culling all kind of wildlife and he learned big game hunting from scratch spending his formative years in the best game ranges and wilderness areas of Africa observing, studying and hunting as part of his daily service routine.

Two years after Tanzanian independence the College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka was established. Anno taught the future game wardens of independent African states as senior lecturer and passed his bush knowledge to many student classes. In those days, wildlife was plentiful and vermin and problem animal control was considered one of the major tasks for the young wardens. At Mweka, his fellow lecturer Pat Hemingway, son of the celebrated author Ernest Hemingway, became his close friend.

Vol13_6_art15bAnno founded and built the College’s collection of field specimens, in particular the heads and horns of the different ungulates. His hunting skills were legend and are still remembered by many. Anno was also well-known for his phenomenal shooting skills being able to hit a shilling coin at 100 meters with his 9.3 x 62 Mauser. When Anno retired from his work at the Mweka Wildlife College in 1968 the Permanent Secretary of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation sent him a letter saying “Anno Hecker has rendered outstanding services to the Federal Republic of Germany”.

He described some of his African adventures in many articles that he wrote for German and international hunting magazines and in his book This is Africa! – Thorns, Thirst and Tsetse Flies (Rowland Ward 2007). In conversation Anno excelled as a skilled raconteur and his profoundly dry humour showed on a face wrinkled with laughing lines. “A day with Mr. Hecker is equal to a whole year in Africa,” concluded the chief editor of the British Stalking Magazine.

Anno Hecker’s thirteen years in Africa were the best ones of his life, he told me once. Africa did not let go until the very end. “Nowhere is the sky bluer than in Africa“, he wrote as dedication in my copy of his book. Even after returning to forestry duties in Germany, and true to his passion, Anno set out for an African safari every year between 1970 and 2002. Either he visited his daughter Katharina, who inherited the artistic talent of her grandfather and works as one of Africa’s best taxidermists near Johannesburg, or to go hunting in the east, south or west of the continent. High in his seventies, Anno made his last Africa safari in the central African rain forest to hunt bongo.

Mfupa, a withered old tracker once said: “Huyu, huyu ni Mzee ya zamani – ah, this one is still one of the old ones from very long ago!

Kwa heri na safari njema, Mzee!

Author: Rolf D. Baldus