People living in southern Africa have always hunted for food, and some hunter-gatherer communities still hunt in the traditional way, but development has brought fundamental changes to present day Namibia. Communal conservancies utilise wildlife sustainably, which includes the harvesting of meat and the sale of trophy hunting rights, both based upon regulation and quotas. Wildlife populations have increased and are stable in conformity with the guiding principle that if a resource has value, people will conserve it.
Living with wildlife
Namibia is still largely agricultural and around 80% of the population depend upon subsistence farming for at least part of their living. In the communal areas of Namibia, outside of national parks, wildlife roams freely. Elephants and other raiders often take crops, and predators such as lions, hyaenas and wild dogs take livestock.
For many farmers, wildlife is a constant threat. However, with the advent of the conservancy system, wildlife has become an asset. Trophy hunters pay large sums for the right to hunt selected animals, and most of this revenue goes to conservancies, which provide benefits to their members. In addition, many conservancies pay direct compensation to farmers who have suffered losses, and are often able to do so due to revenue generated by hunting.
The right to hunt, which was taken for granted by earlier communities living on the land, was taken away from them by colonial government, and only restored after independence. Now, in accordance with quotas based upon wildlife populations, conservancies have the right to harvest animals for meat, in addition to which, the meat from trophy hunted animals is also distributed to conservancy members.
The population of wildlife in an arid landscape is dependent upon two main factors: rainfall and take-off. There was a bad drought from 1980 to 1982 in Namibia, particularly in Kunene, and together with a high take-off of wildlife due to illegal hunting, populations were devastated.
Since 1982 drought has returned, and will return again, but on communal land the take-off has been reduced and regulated due to the conservancy system. Trophy hunting has given a high value to many species of wildlife, and conservancies have protected them. Populations have increased and are stable.
With a larger prey base, predator populations such as lion have also increased. Although these are a constant threat and danger to farmers, they are tolerated due to the revenue they bring in, through tourism and trophy hunting.
Monitoring, quotas and regulation
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) and conservancies work together to monitor wildlife, with the Natural Resources Working Group of NACSO providing technical assistance. Wildlife populations are assessed annually by means of the game counts, aerial surveys, water hole surveys and information from game guard event books, which is collated nationally.
The MEFT issues quotas for the sustainable use of wildlife based upon animal populations and other factors, such as drought. It may be considered prudent to make use of wildlife before it dies as the result of drought. Quotas are given for trophy hunting, meat harvesting, and the live capture of surplus game for sale.
Every aspect of wildlife utilisation is subject to strict regulation by the MEFT, and the Namibia Professional Hunting Association, NAPHA, works to promote and ensure ethical hunting and professional standards.
Hunting versus poaching
A clear distinction has to be made between legal and illegal hunting. Legal hunting is done according to quotas and regulation, and on conservancy land provides an income to communities. Illegal hunting is theft, whether it be poaching for the pot by locals, or the shooting of high value animals for elephant tusks, rhino horns or animal hides. Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are theft from the communities that conserve wildlife and benefit from its legal utilisation.
Conservancies that derive an income from trophy hunting contract professional hunters as partners, who bring clients to conservancies to hunt. Typically, a professional hunter, or PH, will be contracted to hunt a fixed quota of animals which must be paid for, whether they are hunted or not. Above that, payments are made for specific hunts of high value species.
The Natural Resources Working Group of NACSO provides assistance to conservancies to negotiate contracts that are fair and legally binding. Trophy hunting in Namibia is organised by NAPHA, the Namibia Professional Hunting Association, and all hunters on conservancy land are members of the organisation.
Hunts on conservancy land are monitored by game guards who accompany the hunters, and use a ticket system to identify the hunted animals. Training is provided to conservancy game guards by NACSO’s Natural Resources Working Group, to ensure their competency to monitor hunting operations.
Hunting and conservation
Despite the tradition of hunting in Namibia and its strict regulation, there are many people worldwide who abhor hunting. Demands are regularly made to ban the importation of trophies from Namibia into the USA and European countries.
Namibia acts in full compliance with the CITES agreement, which regulates the international trade in endangered species. Many Namibian conservancies do not have strong tourism potential, and can only derive an income from trophy hunting, without which, they would be unable to pay for community game guards to deter poaching and wildlife crime.
» Download a brochure on Namibia's wildlife with information on hunting.
» View a list of hunting partners.