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Congratulations to Chip Wagner for winning the first ever Catch & Release Conservation Bongo Hunt through our online auction with a bid of $23,000. The hunt was conducted by Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund (Bisbee Fund). It took place outside of Uvalde, Texas at the renowned Morani River Ranch this past Monday thru Wednesday with the successful encounter happening on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Typically hunters must travel to Central Africa to find the elusive bongo which is among the largest of the African antelope species, and even when they do, they are not always successful. Chip only had to travel to South Texas for this rare experience.

Tranquilized Bongo during the “Bisbee’s Catch & Release Conservation Bongo Hunt” on the Morani River Ranch.
(Left to Right) Dr. Patrick O’neil DVM, Brian White, Chip Wagner, Wayne Bisbee

The Morani River Ranch is famous for having one of the world’s most extensive collections of exotic game that exists in private hands. On the Morani River Ranch, rare and exotic animals, although on private land, roam amongst thousands of acres where they can propagate in natural surroundings and in almost all cases far more successfully than they do in their native lands.

Sometimes, in order to ensure the continued proliferation of these species, veterinarians must examine and treat them, which is where a catch and release hunt opportunity arises. This type of hunt encompasses everything that a true hunting experience does with the exception being that the target animal is tranquilized with a dart gun vs. being harvested.

Dr. Patrick O'neil DVM administers a bongo health check complete with vaccinations.

The beauty of this event is that the hunter, Chip was a “hands on” conservationist, while enjoying all the thrills of a hunt, and also received the maximum tax write off for his donation to the Bisbee Fund, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The stalk began early on a cold overcast morning with pre-scouting hikes over rugged, hilly terrain to determine where the bongo might be. Later that day, after multiple attempts to get into a darting position, Chip was able to make an excellent shot. While the bongo was briefly sedated, antibiotics were given, blood samples taken, and other scientific data was gathered to ensure the continued health of the animal. It was admired by all present, and some great photographs of the animal and conservationist/hunter were taken. The attending wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Patrick O’Neil D.V.M. of the Pedernales Veterinary Center, then successfully released it back into its habitat with a clean bill of health and fresh vaccines. The already high excitement level went through the roof as the animal walked away and returned to its environment.

Brian White and Wayne Bisbee commented that the very needed funds raised for this hunt will go directly to the breeding, advancement, and care of rare wild animals on current source population locations and the eventual re-population to logical and responsible locations that include original habitats where the animals have in some cases gone extinct in the wild.

“Chip said, “yes, I’m an avid hunter, but I’m very excited about this opportunity because it is a way to not only impact conservation through hunting but to impact conservation through catch and release hunting which is specifically designed to raise money for the species that need it the most. I got to be a hunter, conservationist and philanthropist, all at the same time, and I had a damn good time doing it.”

While attending TCU, Chip Wagner considered Fort Worth a great place to live and made it his home. His passion for hunting and fishing has taken him all over the world and he even holds a world record. He is also an impressive name in offshore tournament fishing, having won millions of dollars in purses at the most prestigious events that exist. Chip’s current efforts are in his world class Quail Ridge Ranch in west Texas that has an extensive collection of exotic game as well as trophy North American game. Chip also has restaurant franchise interests with the popular Fuzzy Tacos chain among other various business ventures.

The television series, “The High Road” with Keith Warren was on-site to cover the bongo conservation hunt. The resulting show will be broadcast nationally within their weekly program slot on the Pursuit Channel during their 2016 broadcast season. “I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be able to help get the word out on such an epic conservation event. The interest and exposure that this “catch and release hunt” will receive on our program will be substantial. The potential good that is going to come from this hunt is unlimited and I recognize the long term positive impact that it can have on nearly extinct species by duplicating this type of event more frequently”, said Warren.

The Bisbee Fund is currently involved with multiple campaigns, including Project: Save the Rhino in South Africa, traditional tagging and satellite tagging projects with The Billfish Foundation and the International Game Fish Association, and a re-establishing endangered species to their native lands in Africa and beyond project with the Second Ark Foundation, the Exotic Wildlife Association and others. The Fund has also partnered with Ducks Unlimited de Mexico (DUMAC) on a bold wetlands research and rehabilitation project for Mexico’s west coast and has established a scholarship program for exotic wildlife management and research candidates.

Thanks to the Bisbee Fund’s unique “Donor Founders Circle” who commits each year to cover all of the Bisbee Fund’s administration expenses, a full 100% of the auction proceeds will go toward the proliferation of threatened, endangered, and actually “extinct-in-the-wild” animals.

To learn more about what the Bisbee’s Fund is doing, and to see how you can get involved in their exciting projects, please visit www.BisbeesConservationFund.org.

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