Banning trophy hunting imports to negatively impact Namibia

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Trophy hunting is permitted across large swaths of Africa today. Many of the animals hunted and exported for trophies are smaller game, such as impala and warthogs.

Still, most of the revenue generated from commercial hunting comes from the so-called charismatic Big Five: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, and buffalo.

Restrictions on trophy hunting imports have been imposed in the US, Europe, and Australia. At the same time, the UK recently announced that it would “ban imports from thousands of species as part of a wider UK drive on international conservation”.

  • Minister of environment, forestry, and tourism Pohamba Shifeta says the banning of hunting trophy imports by the United Kingdom (UK), Belgium, and Finland may have negative consequences for Namibia and its wildlife
  • A total of 5001 trophy hunters visited Namibia for hunting in 2019. German tourists or hunters were the highest with a total of 1792 (36 per cent)
  • While some bans have been imposed and lifted, Kenya, once among the world’s most iconic hunting destinations, has had a national ban on trophy hunting since 1977

The Namibian Minister of  Environment, Forestry, and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta urged the international community against restrictions and prohibitions on the importation of certain hunting trophies, as he warned such an action might have unintended negative consequences for Namibian people and wildlife.

Fears arise from revenue generated through trophy hunting being diminished by a blanket ban; revenue often earmarked for conservation and, in Namibia’s case, rural poverty alleviation.

According to him, as of 2018, an estimated 230,000 communal area residents, which is 9 per cent of Namibia’s total population, were members of communal conservancies, which have created jobs for nearly 5,000 people. He said these conservancies are responsible for managing wildlife on 169,756 square kilometres of land, which is 21 per cent of Namibia and over two-thirds the size of the UK.

This comes as the minister said he had noted some initiatives in process to ban the import of trophies into the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Finland.

“Before these developments, France and the Netherlands also implemented restrictions and prohibitions on the importation of certain hunting trophies,” he said, adding that it is fully within the sovereign rights of these countries.

“We recognize that introducing any option related to imports and exports of hunting trophies is fully within the sovereign right of these countries. We further understand that they intend to protect animal species that are hunted in Namibia and other African countries, an intention that is shared by the Namibian Government,” he said.

According to an article by The Conversation published on August 10, 2022, while some argue that trophy hunting is unethical and delivers few benefits, others say it provides an important incentive for conserving threatened species and habitats by helping generate revenue for governments and local communities.

The majority of the trophies were imported from Canada and South Africa, but other top ten countries of origin included Namibia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Tanzania, Argentina, Zambia, and Botswana. (Photo/ Humane Society International)

However, in a related article by Namibia Economist dated August 10, 2022, the tourism minister maintained that the Namibian conservation model, which has received international acclaim, is based on the premise that people living with wildlife are its rightful custodians.

He also added that without a suitable alternative that fully replaces the income, employment, and protein provided by conservation hunting in Namibia, “both our people and wildlife will suffer”.

“Namibia can demonstrate that trophy hunting positively contributes to wildlife conservation and the rural economy, which should provide sufficient grounds for approving trophy imports from our country. Therefore, we encourage all countries that import trophies from Namibia to adopt a targeted and measured approach,” the minister said.

“Should the countries I have mentioned ban the import and export of hunting trophies, that would erode all the progress made in our country since independence, particularly if other European countries follow suit,” he said.

“The Ministry is at the forefront of the government’s anti-poaching efforts and plays a vital role in supporting communal conservancies and managing the rhino custodianship programme,” he added.

“These efforts are partly funded through the Game Product Trust Fund (GPTF), a statutory body created by an Act of Parliament, which receives revenue from hunting and live wildlife sales. Data from 2020 – 2021 reveal that GPTF spent about Euro 1.2 million on conservation programmes, 73 per cent of which was dedicated to anti-poaching and other wildlife management activities such as rhino conservation and Protected Area Management,” Shifeta said.

According to Mongabay, the country’s conservancy-based conservation model has distinguished itself by conferring rights to wildlife resource use to communally-run conservancies. This was enacted through a legislative amendment back in 1996 after Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. Before that, rights to wildlife resources were exclusively reserved for commercial or freehold landowners, who, based on apartheid’s racialized politics, were of European descent.

The minister, in 2019, said a total of 5001 trophy hunters visited Namibia for hunting. German tourists or hunters were the highest with a total of 1792 (36 per cent), followed by the USA with 934 (19 per cent), Austria 378 (7 per cent), Hungary 210 (4 per cent), France 196 (4 per cent), Sweden 189 (4 per cent), Spain 155 (3 per cent), Denmark 103 (2 per cent), Russia (2 per cent), Australia 70 (1 per cent). Other countries were to a combined number of 888 (18 per cent) hunters.

While some bans have been imposed and lifted, Kenya, once among the world’s most iconic hunting destinations, has had a national ban on trophy hunting since 1977. Botswana’s government in 2014, then led by former President Ian Khama, temporarily banned trophy hunting, citing declining wildlife numbers. The move was widely applauded by international animal welfare groups.

In May 2019, the government, now headed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, announced it would lift the hunting moratorium and issue “fewer than 400” licenses for elephant hunts each year. Officials say it’s what the people want. They say it will control herd numbers, reduce human-elephant conflict and create jobs in areas where opportunities are scarce.

The top five countries of origin for African lion trophies were South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia (Table 3). However, South Africa made up the “lion’s share” of these imports with nearly 4,000 trophies imported from South Africa between 2005 and 2014. Of the total trophy imports, 38% (1,539) were sourced from captive lion facilities. (Photo/ Humane Society International)

A 2015 study commissioned by the Safari Club International Foundation estimated that between 2012 and 2014, hunters visiting eight countries; Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe contributed an average of US$426 million to the group’s GDP each year and created more than 53,000 jobs.

Critics say those claims are overstated; a study funded by Humane Society International, which opposes trophy hunting, puts hunters’ contributions at less than US$132 million per year and job creation at a maximum of 15,500.

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Albert is a Chemical Technologist and Author. He is passionate about mining, stock market investing, Fintech and Edutech.

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