What Karoo Taxidermy did to combat the challenges during Covid_19 lock down
Friday, 31st July 2020
By Freya Askjær
creative business thinking combats the challenges of covid-19 lockdown
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Questions to Frank Gentry, Owner of Karoo Taxidermy on the mask making
operation the company embarked on during Covid_19.
- How did you come up with the idea of changing the production to making face masks? I
know we had/have a pandemic, but still YOU had the idea to make a difference!
Shortly before our president announced that South Africa were to go into full lockdown, we
realized that there was a severe shortage of face masks available South Africa. We started
to import face masks to assist with this situation. This exercise posed rather challenging
circumstances as all international flights had been cancelled, however we managed to
negotiate these challenges but as time went by it became more and more challenging and
expensive to import masks into the country.
We offered our premises to local seamstresses and a non-profit organization to sew re-
usable masks to try and alleviate the lack of masks in factories and to provide a source of
income for the seamstresses.
Through some research it became apparent that there were almost no companies at the
time that were manufacturing medical masks in South Africa by means of an ultrasonic
mask welding machine. We also realized that our industry will only be receiving new
business from abroad once the international borders opens to South Africa. Karoo
Taxidermy was in desperate need of additional source of income to sustain the company
and to keep our staff compliment of 80 employees secure. We had no indication of how
long the hunting industry would be closed-off for business. Therefor we decided to take a
leap of faith and invest in machinery to manufacture and supply facemasks from our studio.
- How long did the process take to change the production – and what kind of permits did
you have to get hold of (and from who)?
As with any new venture you tend to find some unfamiliar territories, and this case was no
different. Through a process of trial and error and a very dedicated team, we managed to
get production up and running in a few weeks.
The Research & Development team managed to change their taxidermy “hats” and adapt
to the new PPE roles they have been appointed to. They have successfully managed to
obtain the appropriate testing facility for compliancy of these masks.
- What is the current situation of this production?
We are most grateful that hunting opened- up again in South Africa. My workforce is still
dedicated to give the trophy work in studio their full attention. The mask production team
currently consists of about 10 staff members, and they are still continuing to with the
manufacturing as we have manage to create a database of loyal retailers and companies
that have been supporting us.
What is the number of face masks, that you can produce per day/month/year? Is it for
hospitals, for the government and/or?
At present with the current machinery, skills and experience our production capabilities are
at between 5000 and 7000 disposable surgical masks per day.
The materials available to us at present offers a BFE (bacterial filtration efficiency) of 99%,
and have passed the test for surgical face masks
- What is the fogging machine and how does it work?
The thermal fogging machine which is engineered by state-of-the-art technology & science
with high efficiency spraying large areas and a high disinfection/killing rate.
It is a thermal machine that disperses non-saturating micro droplet sprays which
evaporates in a short time frame and effectively decontaminates the area (businesses,
shops, schools, hospitality, etc.) without requiring a long down time. Drug particles of
between 5 to 10 microns remain floating in the air providing effective sanitizing actively for
2- 8 hours after the fogging process.
- Why did you start the fogging side of the business?
Keeping an eye on the “front-runners” of this pandemic, I noticed on the news that this
equipment was being used on the streets in China. Naturally, China was quite a few weeks
ahead of us here in South Africa, and I realized that we will soon also need equipment as
such. We decided to acquire 30 of these fogging machines. The fogging machine is basically
manned by one person. Initially our plan was to make these fogging machines available to
interested hunting outfitters and professional hunters in our area to assist them, their
trackers and skinners with an alternative source of income whilst they are unable to
generate income during this Covid_19 time, but as the industry opened up again, we
decided to donate the machines to the much-needed schools, old age homes and other
And then there is the Gift of the Givers. So, you lend them the space to pack, organize and
send off their packages of food for families?
The Gift of the Givers Foundation is a large disaster non-governmental organization. The
communities around the areas of the town in which we operate in, Graaff-Reinet were destitute,
hungry. The Gift of the Givers Head Office is based in our province, the Eastern Province. Karoo
Taxidermy offered our facility to the Gift of the Givers Foundation to provide storage for the food
donations, of which we donated 7 tons of food to the communities. Our facilities were utilized for
the storage, compilation and distribution of thousands of food parcels and our forklifts loaded the
food onto the distribution trucks as the food were dispatched to the needy areas.
There was a severe shortage of masks in our town. We donated thousands of masks to the schools
and the community. We also provided some infrared thermometers to the nearby communities.
Overall we have donated over 100000 masks, 40 Thermometers and 20 Thermal Fogging
The repercussions of this virus are not limited to the devastating mortality rate and the sickness it
creates as it spreads. The ripple effect of this pandemic is manifested in waves of the weakened
economy, resulting in not only financial devastation, job losses, famine, emotional fatigue and
stress. It leaves behind one crisis after the other, creating new challenges.
In my view, this is a big challenge and as an entrepreneur, challenging a challenge is how we move
forward in this world. We will continuously evaluate the situation as the new set of waves
approaches us, adapt, or change course accordingly and evolve to the best of our abilities to
emancipate ourselves and our current way of life from this pandemic.
Karoo Taxidermy will continue to research new production possibilities in-line with our capabilities
in terms of the environment and workforce we have to offer where we can successfully advance
and accomplish our skills and infrastructure to meet the needs and demands of not only supplies,
but also to provide sustainable income.
My aspiration is that with the world starting to return to more-or less “normality” again, that
hunting, tourism & taxidermy not only returns to its former glory, but that this time in the
pandemic enabled the Karoo Taxidermy team to expand on its offerings by advancing on
production of goods/products, creating additional products that we & South Africa can be proud
of. High quality products that can compete with our Asian counterparts and enable the export of
our products globally from our humble, small rural town, Graaff-Reinet.
”YOU NEED A DIVERSE SET OF SKILLS TO OPERATE A TAXIDERMY STUDIO WHICH HAS HELPED US