The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta last Thursday was delighted after a US District Court of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit in which a US-based animal rights group called Friends of Animals, and a NGO called Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, applied to stop the issuance of trophy import permits for black rhino hunted in Namibia.
“Namibia’s conservation has received a vindication,” Pohamba said.
This was the first of two lawsuits filed by animal rights activists against black rhino import permits.
The second suit was filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a District Court in Virginia, but was dismissed by that court shortly after filing on similar grounds.
Shifeta said the dismissal is critical for Namibia’s conservation, particularly of black rhinos and other endangered species.
“This means that the funds generated through the trophies that are hunted by American hunters, Corey Knowlton and Michael Ulrich, can now be utilised for the purpose they were earmarked,” he said.
“The two hunters collectively raised over U$550 000 for the Game Product Trust Fund for the hunt of black rhinos,” he informed the media during a press briefing. Pohamba further indicated that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which licensed the hunts, and the Dallas Safari Club and Conservation Force, the organisations that helped the hunters obtain the challenged import permits, had all intervened in the case as defendants.
He said that in accordance with legislation and policies, the proceeds generated by means of trophy hunting should be reinvested in the conservation of the species.
“This fund pays for black rhinoceros conservation projects approved by the fund’s board, such as law enforcement and anti-poaching, community benefits and surveys,” he stated.
Pohamba said it is common knowledge that conservation in Namibia has resulted in the growth of wildlife populations inside and outside protected areas.
“Our story has been hailed across the globe as it also seeks to empower Namibian citizens, particularly those in rural areas through employment creation and income-generating activities,” he said.
As custodian of wildlife in Namibia, Pohamba said he believed that the achievement is a result of smart partnership and collaboration with different stakeholders.
“We are sincerely grateful to the citizens and those who supported our conservation efforts,” he further stated.
In the meantime, Shifeta said, Namibia would during the upcoming CITES Conference in September in South Africa, try to garner support through bilateral talks to work out a way to dispose of stockpiles of wildlife products.
“There are countries that feel that banning trophy hunting or burning stockpiles of wildlife products could be the solution. It seems like a publicity stunt. We can use the proceeds for conservation. It will be a relief to us to get rid of these stockpiles as it is a temptation to poachers,” he stated.
He said Namibia could use the proceeds to help lift communities out of poverty.
“Our constitution clearly states that apart from conserving, the community should also sustainably utilise the products. By destroying the products you go against the constitution as you are depriving the community and government of sustainably making use of these natural resources. We cannot make any mistake as government to start burning these resources.
“ Anyone can go to court and complain for destroying their natural resources. We kept them safely and one day hopefully when we get the opportunity to dispose of them, we do it in the right way and use the proceeds to alleviate communities out of poverty and protect conservation,” said Shifeta.
Shifeta was in South Africa yesterday to have talks with his ministerial counterpart to discuss support on the sustainable utilisation of wildlife products.