Trophy Hunting: unethical Namibian hunters to blame for poor image

Written by Oscar Nkala

Hunters who engage in unethical and illegal practices are largely to blame for the decline in the “overall acceptance” of trophy hunting by the general public and influential institutions across the globe says Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) immediate-past president Kai-Uwe Denker.

lion- Conservation-Action-Trust

©Conservation Action Trust

Addressing delegates at the association Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Windhoek in early December, Denker said the global hunting industry has been under siege from a coordinated, international anti-hunting movement since the 1970s.

He said of late, the image of the trophy hunting business had been battered by numerous revelations of unethical conduct by some hunters who are motivated by greed.

“Typical of human nature and for many reasons including greed, many hunting operators have thrown into the wind, not only the generally accepted standards of ethical hunting, but also the very important ecological and nature conservation linkage it has to the principle of sustainable use (of wildlife resources),” Denker said.


©Conservation Action Trust

Further, he said because financial motives tended to over-ride any moral considerations within the hunting industry, the little public support for trophy hunting had been lost to mounting reports of illegal and unethical hunting.

Such reports exposed the “well-founded and well-meant” principle of sustainable use of natural resources to rhetorical questions such as whether it was now about the abuse of natural resources.

Denker said the Namibian trophy hunting industry could survive, but only if its members restored the conduct of ethical and morally acceptable hunting. Such conduct would include the wider observation and adherence to a strict animal welfare code in order to convince the skeptical public that the only acceptable justification for trophy hunting is that it is an “indispensable” tool for practical nature conservation.


©Conservation Action Trust

“It is no longer acceptable to try and justify unacceptable hunting practices by claiming that ethics and morals are matters of personal opinion. The worldwide community has clearly told us that with this, you have crossed the line. It is no longer good enough for a professional hunter to just drive a Landcruiser off the road and shoot a big boar with a rifle,” Denker said.

The strategy to win back public support for trophy hunting would also involve education and awareness campaigns to teach the hunters about the basics of conservation and sustainable use of wildlife resources.

The out-going association president called for the introduction of a new professional hunter training curriculum that would prioritise conservation, with emphasis on aspects like functioning ecosystems, habitat aspects and populations dynamics.

The current Namibian professional hunter training curriculum is an oral and practical course that was tailored-made to suit candidates who cannot read or write.

Denker said the reputation of the hunting industry would remain on “accelerated decline” as long as sectoral audits continued to reveal evidence of its manipulation of rules to facilitate the illegal exploitation of wildlife resources.

Should the sector fail to restore mechanisms to monitor adherence to hunting rules and moral ethics, professional hunters might as well abandon the business and hang up their rifles, Denker warned.


©Conservation Action Trust

Addressing the same meeting, Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Tommy Nambahu said throughout 2016, the Namibian hunting industry struggled against severe challenges which threatened it’s sustainability as a lead contributor to wildlife and nature conservation.

These included the four-year-old regional drought that has dried up water resources, killing thousands of wild animals and livestock across the semi-desert country.

The ripple effects of global events such as the attack on, and advocacy against all forms of trophy hunting following the shooting of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in mid-2015, have negatively affected the Namibian trophy hunting industry.


©Conservation Action Trust

The iconic Zimbabwean male lion, which was a collared subject of a continuing lion research project run by Oxford University, was lured out of Hwange in July 2015 and killed by US doctor Walter Palmer with the help of professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst.

The US doctor initially shot and badly injured the lion with a bow and arrow. However the bow-hunt, which is illegal in Zimbabwe, did not kill the lion and he had to finish it of with a rifle, hours after the first attack.

The public outcry generated by the criminal and unethical nature of the hunt galvanised the global anti-hunting lobby with some conservationists calling for a total ban of trophy hunting of lions and other endangered wildlife species.

Nambahu said trophy hunting in Namibia had declined in the aftermath of the illegal and unethical Cecil hunt because it generated global calls for a ban on trophy hunting and forced several airlines to boycott the transportation of trophies hunted in Africa.


©Conservation Action Trust

“It is important for us as regulators, hunters, hunting out-fitters and stakeholder communities to remain ethical in our dealings to avoid some of the unbecoming criticisms that may tarnish and further diminish our reputation,” the deputy minister said.

Internally, NAPHA is struggling to get rid of the perception that it is a white-dominated industry amid reports that the country has managed to train only 350 black professional hunters since the government drive for racial inclusion in the industry began in 2001.


©Conservation Action Trust

Denker said in the past 20 years when efforts to promote inclusion largely failed, white members of the hunters association occasionally felt unwelcome although they were citizens who loved the country like any other.

Apart from the black professional hunter training project, another initiative that sought to promote black participation in the hunting business was the provision, in 2013, of courses to help communal conservancy operators become independent hunting operators.

Conservation Action Trust

The Conservation Action Trust works for the protection of threatened species by promoting the objective investigation and reporting of important conservation and environmental issues affecting these species. We hope to foster broader awareness and bring about greater public support of vital conservation and environmental issues.

  • Alan

    Conservation Action Trust is not a trustworthy source of news. Very biased, a sad state of journalism today.

  • Royston Wright

    Lets start off with the subscript: “Big game hunting in Africa is economically useless – IUCN / ©” Mr Denker attended the last IUCN Conference held in Hawaii this year and that sentiment was NEVER expressed; except by the bunny huggers and senile preservationists who attended; thus taking something that someone might or might not have said and make this the official stance of the IUCN is, at the very least, unethical, facetious and false journalism (a far too common occurrence in the media today and at its worst, slander and malicious lies! (please note the “conservationaction” listed with this, yet another goody two shoes preservationist organisation who probably paid this journalist to write this crap!!!!! Next, our name is NAPHA, NOT NAMPHA!!! and the AGM was held 28 November 2016, NOT “early December”. I do believe that Mr Nkala has been smoking some very fine mushrooms to come up with this bullcrap! Mr Denker stated that unethical/ illegal hunting in general; along with numerous other factors, is to blame for the poor international image of trophy hunting. He DID NOT single out Namibians in this regard, but did make reference to, inter alia, “canned Lion” shooting (which, by the way, is illegal in Namibia). I might add to this that Mr Stan Burger, the President of PHASA even went so far as to state in his address that Namibia and NAPHA are the leaders in setting the standard for fighting for ethical hunting in Africa – a far cry from us being so “unethical” I’d say????? Mr Denker made mention of the “Cecil” incident but, contrary to the bullshit penned by this journalist, bow hunting is, indeed, legal ON PRIVATE LAND and COMMUNAL LAND in Zimbabwe, so yet another lie! And I quote: “Under the provisions of Park and Wildlife General Amendment Regulations, 1999 (No. 3) bowhunting is permitted on private and communal land. This do not include the concession blocks operated in the Zambezi Valley or other areas where concession lands occur or any lands that are administered by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Some special bowhunting permits may be acquired for these areas. The legislation spells out definitions of permissible bowhunting equipment expressed by peak draw and arrow weight.” In addition to this, all charges have been dropped against Mr Palmer (the hunter) and Mr Bronkhorst (the PH); so to boldly state that the hunt was illegal makes the “journalist” liable for slander!! I hold my own opinion regarding the legality and ethics of this hunt, but that is another issue. To say that Mr Denker stated that attempts of inclusion of “previously disadvantaged” Namibians at hunting outfitters is/was a failure is yet more bullshit!!! We are the first to admit that there is still a long way to go, but we have made great strides to improve inclusivity within the hunting fraternity and have made good progress. We have managed to train ONLY 350 PH’s, good heavens, how many PH’s do you think we have if 350 is such a “small” number. In fact, there are less than 1000 hunting professionals (hunting guides, master hunting guides and PH’s) of which, only about 600 are PH’s; so, if ONLY 350 black PH’s have been trained, that’s half of the registered PH’s – not too bloody shabby if you ask me!!!!! In other words, a “journalist” who, by the way, was NOT at the AGM, chose to make up some crap to suit his target audience and has, as journalist are so inclined to do, taken fact and turned them into fallacy and made the story up as he went along.

    • Valerie Lusaka

      Maybe this reporter made mistakes in this article, but in any case, trophy hunting should be prohibited.

      • Royston Wright

        The reporter did not make mistakes, he lied, simple as that. Lazy and false reporting is a sure sign of a lack of journalistic integrity. Sure, prohibit it and sit back and watch thousands of Africans stave, watch all wildlife disappear without the income from trophy hunting to finance anti – poaching initiatives and, finally, all those who make a living from hunting will turn the habitats of wild animals into cattle and sheep farms, thus destroying the homes of these animals. The greatest threat to nature today is the encroachment of “civilization” on natural habitats, something which hunting helps to inhibit. So, if you are one of those who wishes to see the demise of thousands of Africans from starvation, an explosion in poaching and the destruction of natural habitats, please feel free to ban trophy hunting

        • Rajiv Welikala

          So you mean to say that hunting is the only way most African’s gain an income?

          Hunting’s Millions vs. Photo Tourism’s Billions

          A 2006 report is the only published estimate of sub-Saharan Africa’s trophy hunting revenue. Based on 2001 communications with the Botswana Wildlife Management Association, the report’s authors calculated that Botswana’s hunting industry generated U.S. $20 million per year and employed about 1,000 people.

          By contrast, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that photo tourism generates nearly $1.5 billion dollars annually and contributes, directly and indirectly, 69,500 jobs—10 percent of Botswana’s total employm

          • Royston Wright

            Unfortunately, Rajiv, your sources of information are, to say the least, highly suspect. I suggest you rather refer to peer reviewed and less biased “reports”. Just a quick question, by how much has poaching increased in Botswana since those photo tourists started making up for all the losses in food and income from hunting.. The two forms of income are not mutually exclusive and should be used in conjunction with one another. Hunting is also banned in Kenya, go have a look at the diminishing wildlife numbers and also in Tanzania where hunting has decreased dramatically.

        • Rajiv Welikala
        • Rajiv Welikala
        • Rajiv Welikala
        • Rajiv Welikala
    • ctulpa

      Thank you Royston for calling this trash article for what it is, just misinformation and ARA propaganda! There were many more lies in the article than you illustrated, but your point was well made. Shame on Africa Geographic to allow such obvious trash to be published. I would hope AG sanctions and never allows the author to fabricate such stories again for AG.

  • Jani Teräväinen

    Trophy hunting is unethical no matter how you try to twist it…

  • ctulpa

    This article is full of lies and deceit and is Animal Rights propaganda. It doesn’t matter what side of the issue you are on for Trophy Hunting, putting out an article like this that is full of lies, just shows the author has no credibility and Africa Geographic should be ashamed for publishing this incorrect trash.

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