Trophy hunting ban will put conservancies at disadvantage


In spite of Cabinet’s recent announcement that Namibia will not buckle under pressure from international groups to ban trophy hunting here, conservancy members feel uncertain about their future.
There are 83 registered conservancies in Namibia, and some feel their socio-economic welfare hangs in the balance and the country’s natural resources are at risk.
Trophy hunting has been the only source of income for about 1 600 members of the Bamunu Conservancy in eastern Zambezi Region, and since 2011, the conservancy pocketed more than N.dollars 3.1 million from trophy hunting activities.
This, they say, was possible through daily game patrols by guards, which resulted in a decrease in poaching activities in the area.
The technical advisor to the conservancy, Jerome Mwilima emphasised that if the ban is introduced, poaching will be a serious threat to conservancies and the benefits derived from trophy hunting.
“We receive money and consume meat, and we have no reason to poach. But if we stop trophy hunting, poaching will increase,” he said.
Members of the Mashi Conservancy, also in Zambezi, felt the ban will be “a very bad idea”.
Chairperson of the conservancy, Patrick Mulatehi lamented that crops will disappear, human-wildlife conflict will increase and conservancy members will not survive.
Professional hunting is also one of their biggest income generators.
Mulatehi boasted that only three cases of poaching were recorded in the last two years.
The conservancy has 3 000 members.
What usually happens is that professional hunters enter into agreements with conservancies to shoot lions, elephants, rhinos and other game. The hunter is then entitled to their trophy and the meat is distributed among conservancy members. Thus, a ban on transport of hunting trophies on some airlines might prevent hunters from showing any interest in the hunting quota they share with conservancies in Namibia.
Botha Sibungo, the chairperson of the Salambala Conservancy in the same region, said 'it will be havoc'.
“Everybody will be chasing after game and wildlife. Poaching and human wildlife conflict will increase and we will fall back into the poverty trap,” he noted.
Members are adamant that they are taking control over the natural resources in their conservancy, and because of this wildlife numbers have doubled over the years.
The Salambala Conservancy, which was registered in 1998 and now has about 7 000 members, raked in more than N.dollars 1,9 million on hunting returns during that financial year.
The hunting provides community benefits and offsets for crop losses. Last year, six elephants were sold to hunters, which paid the salaries of its game guards who prevent illegal hunting.
Sibungu indicated that making money for conservation in Namibia is very challenging, especially during the drought over the past two years, and trophy hunting is filling the gap.
He said conservancy members complained that without incentives to conserve wildlife, many natural habitats will be converted into farmland, which is much worse for wildlife and the entire ecosystem.
The conservancies are also of the opinion that countries appealing for the ban on trophy hunting should provide for the social and economic welfare of conservancy members and their dependents.
They spoke during a recent media tour organised by the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (Nacso) to various conservancies in the Zambezi Region.
Concerns and debates around the role of trophy hunting in conservation raged last year after the killing of ‘Cecil the lion’ in Zimbabwe and an endangered black rhino in Namibia.
These two incidents triggered demands to ban trophy hunting in Namibia and throughout Africa, and according to international reports, Delta Airlines, British Airways, KLM, Singapore Airways, Lufthansa, Air Emirates, Iberia Airlines, IAG Cargo, and Qantas, amongst others, last year banned the transportation of hunters' animal trophies.
Last month, the European Parliament also called for a ban on trophy hunting imports into the European Union (EU).
Meanwhile, the Namibian Government, through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, has on various occasions stated that such hunting restrictions and ban on the export of wildlife will have devastating consequences on the conservation sector as well as commercial and communal farming.
Cabinet last week directed the line ministry to actively campaign against such attempts to ban or restrict hunting and the export of wildlife products.

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