Wild Frontiers

Namibian communities rely on hunting to protect wildlife

EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by: Ellaine Smit for the Namibian Sun

While anti-hunting groups have been calling for a ban on hunting in African countries and even petitioned airlines to stop transporting wildlife trophies, Namibian conservancies feel that these groups do not know what benefits trophy hunting holds for communities and how it will impact them if hunting is banned.

©Janine Avery

©Janine Avery

The chairperson of the Shambala Conservancy, Botha Sibungo, says that anti-hunting groups will have to pay conservancies the money they lose should hunting be banned, so that they can still be sustainable.

Hunting represents the main income for most conservancies in Namibia and without it they will not be able to survive. Although conservancies are also involved with other activities that are tourism-based, trophy hunting generally generates the main income from which conservancies pay operating expenses and generate benefits for their members.

Hunting also mitigates wildlife conflict, which is a huge problem for these communities, and poaching has also decreased.

The Shambala Conservancy for instance, has about 6,000 registered members, employees and at least 20 game guards. It receives the majority of its income from hunting with a total of 61% in 2014 and 33% that came from combined tourism returns. Another 5% came from other returns. This means that during 2014 an amount of N$1.9 million was generated through hunting.

“It would be unfair to ban hunting because we are managing our wildlife in a sustainable manner and people are benefitting from it. Whoever brings the ban must pay, so that we are then still able to manage our resources,” Sibungo said.

He added that if hunting is banned, the natural resources will die within a month because people will no longer protect them without any benefits for them. According to him the only option will be to bring more tourism into the conservancy to generate more income for the conservancy to survive, but he said this will take time.

©Janine Avery

©Janine Avery

Meanwhile the technical advisor from the Bamunu Conservancy, John Musa Mwilima, said that their priority is to conserve the animals. The Bamunu Conservancy’s only source of income is from hunting and since 2011 when it was gazetted, until last year, the conservancy has made N$31.1 million from hunting. Last year alone it made N$8.5 million from hunting.

Mwilima said that before the conservancy was gazetted in 2011, subsistence poaching within the conservancy was very high. It then introduced a professional hunter to operate in the conservancy and since then there has been barely any poaching as members have started to see the benefits from protecting wildlife. “If hunting is stopped, we will see an increase of poaching again.”

©Janine Avery

©Janine Avery

The conservancy has about 1,600 members that benefit from the income generated, with 50 staff members – of which 7 are game guards. Mwilima said discussions have been held to introduce other alternatives such as lodges as another source of income. This, however, will take time to introduce.

The chairperson of the Mayuni Conservancy, Patrick Mulatehi, said that they have about 3,000 members and that hunting is one of their main activities and provides the main source of income to the conservancy. He said that 65% of the income is generated from hunting while the other 45% comes from joint venture lodges and campsites. According to him this amounted to N$475,000 generated by hunting last year and N$325,000 from lodges and campsites. The conservancy employs about 24 staff members.

“Without hunting there will be no conservancy. It is the main income of the conservancy. There will be a serious drop in our income if hunting is banned. Trophy hunting helps us with mitigating wildlife conflict and brings in money for the communities; it reduces poverty. It would be a very bad idea to ban trophy hunting.”

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  • Michael Creaghan

    Perhaps this argument would hold water with anti-trophy people if we were not already losing all wildlife at an alarming rate. The model isn’t saving wildlife, but the trophy hunting argument is that without hunting we simply lose them faster. It’s a lose/lose. I think we are looking for a win?

    • Jimm

      You might want to have a read of this article – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glen-martin/kenya-a-contrarian-view_b_1542148.html

      Also, this one –

      http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/biodiversity/killing-in-the-name-of-conservation

      I would encourage you to read both thoroughly, to look past how you personally feel about hunting. It’s not about our emotions, it’s about what is scientific, statistical, and above all, what actually works for saving wildlife.

      Lastly, don’t believe everything you read by the alarmists. Wildlife is being lost at alarming rates where hunting has been banned.

    • Jimm

      What you have to understand is that banning legal hunting is what caused the huge drop in wildlife populations in the first place.

      • Michael Creaghan

        Thank you for responding Jimm. I am aware of the sad situation in Kenya as referenced in your article. Kenya banned hunting in 1977….some 39 years ago. The ban worked….and in fact it worked magnificently for several decades. Kenya was THE premier place to see wildlife in the 80’s and 90’s as a result of their forward thinking policies. One only needs view films on Nat Geo created during those golden years to see how well the anti hunting policy worked, or have a conversation with photo safarists who were fortunate enough to experience it first hand. .

        Unfortunately, you are correct that Kenya has come to trouble in the 2000’s regarding their wildlife. But the cause of the decline is not due to a hunting ban and I can tell you why I know that. You see, neighboring countries Tanzania and Uganda both allow hunting, and both have experienced loss of wildlife equal to or worse than Kenya in the same time period. So you have three countries…..two pro hunting and one anti hunting in the same geographic area, and all have experienced devastating losses of wildlife. The cause therefore, lies elsewhere. That cause is simple enough to deduce, in that that whole area is experiencing a massive population explosion of humans. Where humans amass, wildlife disappears. It’s quite simple really.

        Now if you wish to measure the true effect of hunting, you should study Botswana. It is very much the same situation, where Botswana recently banned hunting, while Namibia and South Africa (which both border Botswana) are pro hunting. Here, Botswana is experiencing an explosive increase in it’s animal populations (and photo safaris as well) while Namibia has shown moderate increases in population. South Africa is more difficult to gauge, because many so called “wildlife refuges” are not much more than cages within which animals get shot (canned hunting). Remove the number of animals in canned hunting situations and South Africa is not fairing well at all (Kruger National Park excepted).

        As a side note, South Africa has recently banned the hunting of Leopards as it is feared their numbers are lower than expected. Just a last rhetorical question for you…..If leopard numbers are feared to be low, and trophy hunting is the savior of all species as has been argued…..then why would the powers that be feel the need to ban hunting of them?

        • Jimm

          Interesting perspective, Michael. Let’s take these on a case by case basis.

          RE: Kenya banning hunting, Dr. Michael Norton-Griffiths gives as interesting explanation, which runs contrary to the idea that banning hunting helped stabilize wildlife. You can find that here:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjUrzB2xxIA

          Also with regards to Kenya, see the following NatGeo piece:

          http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/14/the-biggest-obstacles-for-africas-big-cats/

          Meanwhile, countries like Tanzania are experiencing a loss of wildlife from 1) poaching incursions from neighboring countries like Somalia and 2) political corruption as it relates to the hunting industry (see Craig Packer’s Lions in the Balance book).

          I’ll agree that hunting has become too corrupt to work in Tanzania, unless of course the industry changes. But that is more indicative of the political instability and corruption, which is the same in Mozambique and Uganda. Namibia, on the other hand, is much more democratic, so I don’t believe that their hunting programs should be judged negatively or negated if they are actually helping conserve wildlife.

          I would advise not looking at Botswana as a complete success story just yet, and here’s why. They banned hunting in 2014, so it’s too early to tell what effect that will have. What I do know is that Botswana has a much lower human population than Eastern African countries, which accounts for why there is more wildlife. However, Botswana is currently experiencing a crisis of too many elephants, which are damaging the ecosystems. See the following:

          http://commonwealth-opinion.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2013/botswanas-jumbo-dilemma-the-expanding-elephant-population-and-the-environment-by-keith-somerville/

          Most people don’t know that sport hunters control 80% of wildlife areas, many of which are unsuitable for tourists. That’s bigger than all of the national parks and game reserves combined. Please read the following from the New York Times:

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/world/a-hunting-ban-saps-a-villages-livelihood.html?_r=0

          In answer to your question on leopards in South Africa, the reason that the government put a stop to hunting there was because the main driver of leopard population declines was no hunting itself, but illegal poaching of plains game by impoverished communities. Poverty is one of the biggest aspects of wildlife declines.

          One of the articles I referenced says the following:

          “Human population growth and alternative land-use are the biggest variables associated with wildlife population declines. But to argue that they are mutually exclusive from the removal of wildlife’s economic viability is to deny reality.

          Prior to being outlawed, sustainable use in Kenya occurred on 60 percent of the total wildlife range, whilst tourism covered only five percent. Today, significantly less rangeland remains.

          Norton-Griffiths states, “As Kenya demonstrates so clearly, people do what they do in response to economic incentives, but their ability to respond efficiently depends on the security of their property rights.”

          That wildlife belongs solely to the Kenya government is a picture-perfect illustration of disastrous land use policies, evidenced by some of the worst annual decline rates in wildlife populations on the continent.

          (It’s worth noting that while Kenya’s elephants may be faring a bit better, lion populations have dropped significantly.)

          Kenya’s burgeoning tourism industry is one key example. With 95 percent of all wildlife tourism taking place in the national parks and reserves (known as service revenues), less than 1 percent of gross revenues goes to landowners (producer revenues) living with wildlife.

        • Deputydog

          I get frustrated with the polemic on this issue, so I had some sympathy for you take on this. There is no silver bullet (no pun intended) to solve this issue. I can accept that there are well run hunting concessions that play a positive role in conservation. However, adopt this solution in other areas an you create a recipe for disaster. There is no doubt that the politics of Kenya has completely undermined the healthy state of affairs experienced back in the 90’s. I do not think you can isolate hunting as the causal factor (correlation not causation etc..). And the situation in Nam and Bots so very different. At the moment two sides pick the stats to suit there case, so how the public can one to a properly informed view beats me. Lots of vested interest at stake. There has to be a horses for courses approach, surely?
          To the future (your lose lose scenario) – the cynic in me says that when we are down to our final hundreds of iconic (trophy) species, there will be tourists able to pay the phenomenal sums necessary for their protection in micro reserves ( like Virunga). Difficult times ahead.

        • Gail Potgieter

          You make some important general points about the roles of hunting in different countries, and how bans have/have not contributed to population declines. It is a very difficult thing to study, because there are many more, much bigger, contributing factors to wildlife decline than trophy hunting. Human population expansion, followed by habitat conversion and human-wildlife conflict are undoubtedly the worst issues for wildlife conservation – any negative impact trophy hunting may have is tiny by comparison.

          However, a broad response about trophy hunting in Africa does nothing to answer the questions posed by the article on Namibia above: if trophy hunting in banned today, then who will step up and pay the millions of dollars that would be lost by Namibian conservancies? At the end of the day, land use options and tolerance for wildlife (especially dangerous species) comes down to money for rural African communities. They simply don’t have the luxury to view these animals as having rights equal to or surpassing their own.

          If you know anyone who is willing to pay local communities millions of dollars without actually going to shoot anything or even visit the area (i.e. over and above their current photographic tourism income), then do tell. They would have to keep up the payments for at least ten years, which would allow some of the conservancies to develop extra photographic tourism to take over their hunting income. For those conservancies that don’t have attractive landscapes that will draw photo-tourists, the payments will have to continue indefinitely. Either that, or let them kill all the dangerous species that threaten their lives, livestock, and crops, (elephants, hippos, crocodiles, lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, hyaenas, amongst others) and let them sell body parts of other wildlife species for huge amounts of money, rather than trying to protect them (rhinos, elephants). This may sound harsh, but it is the simple reality of the situation.

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  • Eugene

    http://www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za/
    Hi my few cents worth of wildlife destruction in Kenya I read an excellant acritcle by Ron Thompson in African Outfitter Jan/Feb issue how the Kenyatta family destroyed and why hunting was banned so that they could have it all to themselves. Since hunting was banned they have lost 80 of their animals through poaching corruption mismangament and pure lack of self will determination. Mans creed of sinful demoralization and love of money has created a generation without any conscience of what is right and wrong……..!!

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