The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta says the banning of trophy hunts by some airlines will have financial implications for conservancies, which live off their hunting income.
This comes as Shifeta is set to meet a delegation in Botswana to discuss the ban, while there is an ongoing campaign with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and also some Governments with regards to revoking the decision by some airlines to effect this ban.
Canadian airline Delta has enforced a ban on the transportation of trophy hunts, which ban comes as animal activists worldwide are outraged over American Walter Palmer having killed a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe on the 1st of July 2015.
“I did not yet get a confirmed report, but we heard that some airlines are contemplating, and that some have in fact put up a ban already”, the minister stated.
The ban on transporting animal trophies has a serious implication for the Namibian economy and also its nature conservation efforts, especially wildlife conservation.
The government gives incentives to people who keep custody of these animals so that they can sustainably harvest them.
The only way that the airline bannings won’t have an effect on Namibian conservation efforts and the economy at large is only if trophy-hunters come with a chartered plane, because they cannot transport their products in most airlines, especially South African Airlines, because most of these hunters go through South Africa, except those in Europe as they go through Frankfurt, Germany.
There are unconfirmed reports that some other big airlines are also believed to have put up a ban.
The country gets funds through trophy conservancy, and these are the same funds which are used to plough back into the budget for conservation, training, game-karts and also community programmes such as schools and clinics/hospitals, especially for people who keep custody of these animals.
“If conservancy members have no income, they will abandon their role in protecting the country’s natural resources,” Shifeta explained.
He said the airlines are failing to understand that the ban on transporting animal trophies is killing wildlife conservation rather than protecting it. Hence, they also don’t understand the success story which shows how Namibian wildlife conservation had been growing.
Tourists coming to visit the country alone are not enough for the sustainability of the country’s conservation, because they might also not leave any incentive.
Trophy-hunting is believed to be contributing quite a considerable amount of money to the Namibian economy and it has been effective.
This is why the MET doesn’t rely much on the State’s budget from Finance’s coffers as trophy- hunting can bring in about N$4m or N$5m, and that is used to plough back into game products and the trust fund where the ministry also takes money for dehorning exercises and scientific research programmes.
“The country is striving for sustainability, something which can sustain itself. We know that when we do that, we harvest as long as the present generation benefits and also leaves for the next generation. That is why we call it sustainable transition of natural resources,” the minister continued.
The country is currently in a state whereby they really need to harvest because of drought. Statistics have it that at the moment, Waterberg is overpopulated with animals.
The country thus has to either sell a portion of the animals, such as buffaloes, or auction them for trophy-hunting because if they don’t, then they will be forced to kill it for consumption.
A trophy-hunt for a buffalo can go up to N$1 million, and the country currently has more buffalos than needed. Namibia has an over-capacity of buffaloes, which are more than 600. This also applies to other animals which have overpopulated the country.
“Trophy-hunting is being encouraged at this point in time, because we are faced with the drought dilemma, and we need to do something. We may even get N$ 10 million or more, and plough this back into conservation instead of killing the animals and people only eating meat,” he said.
The country can still have trophy-hunting because the trophy-hunters give away the meat to the communities, as they indeed only want the head. So, in turn, the communities can get both the meat and also the funds, and that is the strategy of the MET.
There will be a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State Summit from the 17th of August 2015. Prior to that, there will be a declaration which needs to be discussed on sustainable transitional, natural resources.
The MET is also expected to meet with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and discuss matters pertaining to the airline banning. There are various countries which are also supporting the transport ban as it is believed that there are some strong and powerful NGOs behind that, which are lobbying so that other countries can join them.
But probably just because they feel that their budgets are filled up with something, or they will be given some monetary compensation from the countries that have put up the ban, but in the case of Namibia, it’s very difficult, he continued.
“I don’t know how we will do it, because our conservation and wildlife depends on the communities as most of these animals are in the State’s protected areas. But there also those which are in communal conservancies,” Shifeta said.
Namibia has 82 communal conservancies which all have animals and other natural resources, but we also have those in the commercial farms, which are many. Apart from that, private individuals are allowed to do the hunting, apart from on black rhinos, but they can hunt white rhinos as these are private owners who also get incentives to keep these animals. All black rhinos found in the country are State- owned, whilst white rhinos can be privately-owned.
However, private individuals still need permission to harvest the white rhinos from MET as they can’t just decide to go hunt on their own. They can, nonetheless, still dehorn the rhinos with permission from MET.
Some African countries which allow hunting have criticized the decision by a number of international airlines to ban the transport of parts of animals killed in hunts.
The Namibia Professional Hunters’ Association (NAPHA), however, feels that the ban on animal trophies will impact trophy-hunting, and also the economy and conservation efforts.
South African Airways Cargo (SAA Cargo) has reviewed and reversed its decision to place an embargo on the transportation of hunting trophies, which was limited to rhino, elephant, tiger and lions.
“We have decided to lift the embargo after extensive engagements with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the commitment we received that compliance and inspection areas will be strengthened to ensure that the risk of the shipment of illicit goods and the falsification of permits and documentation is eliminated,” said Tlali Tlali, South African Airways’ spokesperson as per a media release.