Namibian conservancies have raked in US$0.4 billion (N$4.9 billion) through trophy hunting and game sales since its inception in 1991.
This comes after the Governbmernt adopted stringent and well crafted legislation on nurture conservation which ahs recieved wide spread appluase in the past few years.
There are 82 conservancies stretching over 16 million hectares, occupying 20% of the country’s land with 200 000 people live in them.
Co-Director at the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), Karine Nuulimba said that 42% of Namibia’s land is now being managed under conservation.
She added that in 2013 tourism and hunting generated N$72.2 million for communities, and created 6472 jobs and is expected to rise in the next five years.
Nuulimba added that in 1996, the post-independence government put in place bold legislations that gave rural communities living in communal areas back their rights to wildlife by establishing communal area conservancies.
“Community members of conservancies are responsible to manage their wildlife and are able to benefit from tourism and sustainable use of wildlife in their conservancies. Conservancy policy does not give land rights but only rights over huntable game (which includes most ungulates and predators, as well as elephants in certain areas). Also rights over tourism. All income goes back to conservancy,” Nuulimba said.
Nuulimba said all consumptive use of wildlife in conservancies is controlled through annual quotas that define the number of animals that may be used, adding, that the annual quota setting meetings take into account both local knowledge and collected information, including game census and Event Book data (a natural resource monitoring system), harvest returns and desired stocking rates.
“The meetings allow discussion, review a conservancy’s vision of each species and encourage input from private sector operators in the area. The community agrees on quotas for own-use meat harvesting trophy hunting, shoot-and-sell meat harvesting or live-capture-and-sale. Conservancies then request the quotas from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), and these are scrutinised by the MET before being approved or amended,” she said.
Currently Northwest Namibia’s free-roaming populations of lions stand at 130 from about 20 in 1995 which means that Namibia now has Africa’s only expanding population of free-roaming lions in Africa.
Meanwhile, Elephant populations rose from around 7500 in 1995 to an estimated 20 000 currently whilst Zebra populations are now 14 000 from being less than 1000 in the 1990s.
Nuulimba said in 1982 the Black Rhino was almost extinct in north-west and is now the largest concentration of free-roaming black rhino outside national parks in world
“Most population growth took place when ownership and management took place, and long before conservancies made money, money is incentive, but we believe it has more to do with responsibility and communities having ownership over their resources than money,” she said.
Conservancies are free to decide how to use their income both to cover their operational costs as well as to provide their members with benefits and almost half of the income comes from sustainable trophy hunting and game harvesting while another half comes from tourism ventures.
A rapid growth in wildlife numbers has allowed some conservancies to initiate live capture operations to sell wildlife to other conservancies or private landowners. In addition to generating income, the translocation of surplus wildlife into areas with low populations assists the rapid recovery of overall wildlife stocks in Namibia.
“Most of it pays for operational costs of conservancies (employment of game guards and other staff – average about 15 staff per conservancy, with some up to 65 staff). Tendency is that as income increases, so too do operational costs. Members challenging this, and pushing for bigger proportion of income to be distributed to members – as ‘cash dividends’ or development projects,” Nuulimba added.
The remaining 6% of income is earned from crafts and the sale of indigenous medicinal and perfume plant products.
Nuulimba explained that hunting is divided in different categories which are trophy hunting and premium hunting that is similar to trophy hunting, yet focuses only on the hunting experience.
“The visiting hunter does not take home a trophy and pays a much lower fee. Premium hunting is currently not practiced widely, but offers great opportunities for growth. Own-use harvesting of meat. Own-use harvesting supplies meat for traditional authorities and cultural festivals, as well as individual households,” Nuulimba said.