Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta strongly believes a call to ban trophy hunting or new unreasonable measures that would unduly restrict what is known as “conservation hunting” will reduce the value of game species to their meat value.
Shifeta made the remarks at the Ministerial Legotla in South Africa last Friday and said private landowners will have to reduce their game numbers to increase cattle numbers in an attempt to substitute the loss of income.
Further, he argued that the loss of economic incentives for conservation through trade restrictions or pressure on hunting will lead to significant economic losses and an increase in poverty levels.
In 2014, trophy hunting contributed 40 percent of the total direct income of communities in conservancies. “Obviously, if we remove conservation trophy hunting from our conservation equation, the community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) programme will collapse and Namibia will fail dismally in conservation,” he explained.
The importance of sustainable trophy hunting in conservation in Namibia is not only applicable to communal areas. About 80 percent of the numbers of the larger plain game species are found on private farms.
Shifeta said sustainable hunting on privately owned farmland has resulted in an increase in the value of game. With the increase in value that land owners realise from game the conservation of game resulted in an increase in game numbers, adding that a combination of cattle and sustainable hunting operations employ twice the number of permanent employees that cattle farms do.
Additionally, Shifeta believes this will also result in heavy biodiversity losses for Namibia as a whole.
In 2014, CBNRM the contributed about N$530 million to national income, of which N$87 million was generated directly for the benefit of the rural communities. Annually, he said 6 500 to 7 000 jobs are created and maintained through the programme.
He said “conservation hunting” also contributes to the availability of protein supply in that meat of the trophy hunted animals is distributed to rural communities. Trophy hunting plays an important role in Namibia in the management and operation of conservancies by generating tangible returns.
In fact, Shifeta said, with most of the conservancies, if income from trophy hunting were taken away, they would not be able to sustain operations. Despite the escalating cases of poaching, there has been a positive growth of the national elephant population from 7 500 animals in 1995 to around 23 000 currently.
Moreover, he attributed the significant growth to Namibia’s wildlife conservation programme, which has contributed a large percentage of these elephants occurring outside formal protected areas. He said the programme also contributed to the country’s national populations of giraffe, leopard, rhinos, lion, crocodile, rhino, buffalo and cheetah, whose numbers appear healthy.
Furthermore, he agreed that local communities’ sustainable use of wildlife is fundamentally and inseparably connected to successful wildlife conservation. He said nations cannot succeed in wildlife conservation without local communities’ involvement.
Namibia, like many other African countries had endured a past in which decisions and solutions were imposed, where wildlife and other natural resources on communal land belonged to the government of the time. Shifeta defined this as preservation rather than conservation.
This, he said, led to a number of problems, including poaching and the deliberate destruction of habitats, both on private and communal farmland, hence the decline in wildlife prior to independence.
Giving effect to the Constitution, in 1996 a piece of legislation was passed to empower local communities to actively manage and benefit from both consumptive and non-consumptive sustainable use of wildlife through the formation of community conservancies. This was done to encourage wildlife recovery and environmental restoration in communal areas. He said some of the locally extinct species have since been restored in their former home range within communal areas and this has expanded the range.
“We cannot achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) targets without sustainable utilisation of natural resources. Hence, I beg that while busy putting together the bolts and nuts on international platforms, such as this one, we should always be mindful of those communities coexisting and sharing the same habitats with wild animals. It’s not an easy living experience. They bear the brunt of excruciating conflict with wild animals daily,” he noted.
Namibia has 82 community conservancies with an abundance of wildlife. Government has not only trans-located wild animals to these areas, but also granted the local communities ownership rights over those natural resources.