Namibians speak up on rhino horn trade and hunting

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Namibians speak up on rhino horn trade and hunting

By John Ledger

Namibia leads Africa in its progressive environmental and wildlife policies. The legalisation of community-owned conservancies has seen hundreds of thousands of hectares of communal land under various forms of wildlife protection and management. Both subsistence and trophy hunting are seen as essential components of a wildlife-based economy. Implementation of these pragmatic policies has seen wildlife thrive in Namibia. Like other African countries, Namibia is subjected to constant pressure by the animal-rights and anti-hunting crusaders. However, this country is blessed with some fearless and outspoken proponents of their Namibian wildlife and hunting policies. They are calling again for a legal trade in rhino horn, and hopefully the other countries of the region whose rhinos are being targeted by the illegal trade (there is no other trade allowed!) will join Namibia and stand up to CITES and the misguided individuals and organisations that have supported a ban on the trade in rhino horn for 41 years! In this contribution we look at some recent reports that speak to Namibia’s determination to ensure that its wildlife is valuable to those who own and look after it.

Dr Chris Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the Namibian Chamber for the Environment (NCE) said the following in his 2018 report-back to NCE members:

“We need to move from a ‘primary production’ land-use economy based on meat and protein sales (where we are highly uncompetitive globally) to a ‘service-based’ land-use economy where we break through the low primary production ceiling, are far less vulnerable to climatic events, and are highly competitive on the global stage. This model includes buffalo as part of the wildlife mix, and it includes an international trade in rhino horn.”

In an e-mail to NCE members and others on 3 December 2018, Dr Brown said:

Dear NCE Members and friends,

Many thanks to all who attended our end-of-year function on Thursday evening last week – a turn-out of almost 100 people from the environmental NGO sector and a great evening. Attached please find a pdf version of John Hank’s guest talk and a copy of my ‘2018 in a soundbite’.

Also significant is Minister Shifeta’s comments on the importance of establishing a rhino horn trade, in this morning’s Namibian Sun. There is a growing consensus amongst long-established conservation organisations and individuals in southern Africa on the urgent need for a well-organised legal trade as soon as practically possible. Attached please see a flier sharing the views from Swaziland. Swaziland, on their own, submitted a motivation to the previous CITES meeting to legalise rhino horn trade – it was not successful. This needs all southern African rhino range states to work together to make it happen.

Extracts from an article by Ellanie Smit in the Namibian Sun, 3 December 2018:

Poachers will ‘kill every single rhino’

If rhino owners are not allowed to harvest and legally sell horns, poachers will kill every last rhino in Namibia.

This is according to Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta, who was speaking last week at a meeting where the poaching situation in the country was discussed.

Shifeta said the price of a rhino horn has skyrocketed and is currently about N$900 000 per kilogram. ‘It is going up every day.’

He said if rhino range countries could sell rhino horns, the price will go down because the demand would still be there. According to Shifeta, poachers and consumers are looking for ivory and rhino horns for their medicinal value.

‘The demand is there, whether we close the legal market or not.’

Shifeta said at the moment it is too costly for private farmers to keep rhino. ‘Should owners be allowed to harvest and sell horns it would be economically viable for them. The criminal is looking for the horn, if there is no horn, he will not risk his life to shoot the rhino. If we do not do this, many more rhino will be killed. They will come for the last rhino until it is dead”

Extracts from the Address by the NAPHA President, Danene van der Westhuyzen at the NAPHA AGM held on 27 November 2018:

“Honourable Minister of the Environment, Pohamba Shifeta, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen – and all protocol observed…

The Namibia Professional Hunting Association marked its 45th year of existence in 2018. It is an achievement to be proud of. NAPHA’s milestone is important because it speaks of our history, reminds us why we live the way we do and why we are where we are. It also reminds us to learn from mistakes and strive to become better. It helps us understand how people and societies behave. The past causes the present, and thus the future. Furthermore, history contributes to moral understanding, but more importantly, it shapes our identity.

Namibia’s history includes a broad repertoire of skills and interests, cultivated over years of evolution, and the concurrent shaping of culture.

In Namibia, hunting is an integral part of a successful conservation model that benefits communities, wildlife and natural ecosystems. Twenty years ago, Namibia’s total population was 1,655 million people, with a density of 2.01 persons per square km. Today, our population stands at 2,587 million people with a projected 3,686 million people by 2038.

Namibia is a country that still offers the marvellous wide-open spaces, and habitats for all species to roam freely. But more importantly it has proved beyond any doubt that its conservation efforts for all game species have benefited through responsible hunting. Despite the growth of our human population, our elephant population has increased from 7,000 to 23,500 over the last 20 years, while the lion population in the northwest has increased from 20 to 150. We have the world’s largest free-roaming populations of cheetah and black rhino, and well over 70% of Namibia is under one or other form of conservation management. This makes for one of the world’s largest contiguous areas of protected land. We have more wildlife in Namibia today than at any time in the past 150 years.

NAPHA, as well as our Ministry of Environment and Tourism, has demonstrated abundantly and with ample merit that conservation through hunting WORKS!

Nevertheless, we are faced with international bans on trophy imports, airline bans and charges on transporting hunting rifles and trophies, extreme social media uproar and aggressive anti-hunting campaigns to the extent of identifying hunters and sending them insulting hate mail and even death threats. The anti-hunting community likes to deceive the world and blames the decline in African wildlife numbers seen in other countries on hunting, but refuses to distinguish between legal hunting and poaching.

Not to mention the over-exploitation and growing environmental footprint from over-tourism. An increase in asphalt roads, electricity lines, water usage, mountains of garbage and a never-decreasing list of requirements and needs to be met for the tourist wanting to observe game from already worn-out gravel roads. By contrast, one hunter seeks nothing more than unspoiled open landscapes, and wild animals unaffected by humans. Such a hunter brings the same amount of revenue into our country as roughly 2,000 tourists.

NAPHA members operate responsibly within the framework of the law, within the ethics of our profession and our code of conduct, and with the aim to protect wildlife and its habitat from modern society. I cannot even imagine the cost of reclaiming and restocking a formerly pristine wilderness area after it has been totally destroyed by poaching, overgrazing, timber cutting and over-tourism. In principle, any system that is self-reliant is also self-motivating and produces the best results. No businessperson worth their salt is stupid enough to neglect the resource on which they depend.

Who are the culprits when it comes to conservation? Who are the senseless killers? Is it those who oppose hunting or is it the poacher that kills wildlife out of poverty? Is it me who selectively hunts old males, thereby raising money to protect all the wildlife and their habitat, or those who publish wrong information or who are raising millions of dollars to misinform the public and demonise hunting? A lie doesn’t become the truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it is accepted by the majority.

NAPHA members play a leading role in conservation. We invest in and conduct studies and scientific assessments, and as science progresses, our members are the final implementers. However, many people tend to ignore our local knowledge, which is vital in conservation – why is this going to waste?

And yes, it is an indisputable fact that hunting provides the necessary economic incentive to conserve our wilderness areas, and to justify them against the pressures of alternative use like agriculture and livestock keeping. Hunting is the ONE THING that preserves habitat – and without a healthy and natural habitat, we won’t have any wildlife left. We do not merely hunt, we are also nature lovers who strive for sustainable and ethical hunting methods that contribute to conservation strategies.

BUT, ladies and gentlemen, hunting is ALSO an indelible part of our history and has its place in teaching us who we are. It provides us with an expansive sense of what it means to be a human being, where we fit into the circle of life, our rightful role of participating in nature, and therefore representing the fact that no being is omnipotent or invulnerable. It tells us that as powerful and dominant as even the kings and emperors of their respective domains are, one day, they too will be subject to failure and collapse. We are anchored to this world just as the smallest insect is, and as such our fates are entwined. We all will experience the wheel of natural progression. Hunting makes us realise our place in this world.

In the end we conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. And we understand only what we are taught. I am convinced that if you want to save something – your soul, your heart, your relationships, your marriage, your family, your country or the world – you stand up and fight. No excuses, no detours, no debates, no patience – you stand up and say, enough is enough! And this is what we will do.”

Dr John Ledger is an independent consultant and writer on energy and environmental issues, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. John.Ledger@wol.co.za