Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, says that anti-hunting lobbyists cost the Namibian government US$650 000 last year after pressurising the United States government on the legal auction of a black rhino hunt.
Shifeta said the hunt received negative publicity from people who did not understand the principle of conservation through sustainable utilisation.
“The permit sold for US$350 000, but could have generated more than US$1 million, which was in fact the offer on the table as confirmed by Dallas Safari Club, but which was withdrawn shortly before the auction due to pressure from anti-hunting lobbyists.
“One could therefore say that the lobby groups cost Namibia’s Rhino conservation initiative US$650 000, as the total proceeds from the auction were earmarked to go to the Namibia Game Products Trust Fund and would have been distributed among a number of rhino conservation projects,” said Shifeta at the 42nd Annual General Meeting of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA).
Shifeta explained that scientists from his ministry select mature, post-reproductive Black Rhino that have previously been identified as overtly aggressive and which pose a serious threat to herd growth and sustainability for the hunt.
“Such animals often charge and kill younger bulls, cows and also calves. These facts are well substantiated, and are very much at the core of our ministry’s strategic effort to reduce natural herd mortality,” said Shifeta.
Meanwhile, the hunt for the identified black rhino was delayed due to the hold-up for more than a year of the issuing of an import permit for the Black Rhino trophy because of pressure by animal rights activists on the U.S. government.
“During that period the bull, which had been scientifically select to be hunted had killed another black rhino. The non-hunters did in fact not only cost our country’s conservation efforts hundreds of thousands of US dollars, but also the life of an additional Black Rhino,” said Shifeta at the AGM, which ended at a local hotel yesterday.
Shifeta explained that Namibia is a pro-wildlife country with a progressive national constitution that has formally enshrined the sustainable utilisation of living natural resources.
“We are a hunter-friendly nation with a very proud hunting heritage, and our trophy hunting community is well respected by our government and fellow Namibians as an essential and integral part of Namibia’s wildlife conservation, tourism, agricultural and business sectors,” the minister said.
He said trophy hunting currently provides more on-the-job training and promotional opportunities, as well as pays better salaries than any other form of agricultural land employment options, and invests heavily in a variety of social upliftment and educational programmes in rural areas throughout Namibia.
Namibia is firmly established as one of Africa’s most popular hunting and tourism destinations, and all reports indicate that 2015 was again an excellent year for the local hunting and conservation community.
However, Shifeta warned that trophy hunting was currently threatened by a number of factors, exacerbated during the last five months by the unfortunate saga of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. This anti-hunting sentiment, said Shifeta, is fuelled by rabid anti-hunter sentiments based on emotion rather than fact. These had spread like wildfire on both social media and international news.
“The hype has humanised the lion and demonised the hunters. Zimbabwe, like Namibia, has a sound wildlife management policy in place, which provides rural communities with an incentive to protect their valuable natural living resources. It is up to each and every one of us to raise our voices as enthusiastically as the anti-hunting community does, in order to promote the concept of sustainable hunting as the ultimate conservation triumph,” he said.
Namibia is recognised as a world-leader in conservation, with specific focus on rare and endangered species such as the Black Rhino. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has granted Namibia an annual export quota of up to five hunter-taken Black Rhinos.
“Only post-reproductive males are hunted, and the revenue derived from such hunts is reinvested in Rhino management, including addressing challenges such as poaching, which is a real threat to Rhinoceros all over the world, and increasingly so in Namibia,” noted Shifeta.