17 Dec 2014 17:40pm
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
By Pearl Coetzee
WINDHOEK, 17 DEC (NAMPA) The banning of trophy hunting in conservancies could have devastating effects on the socio-economic survival of the rural communities, as they currently reap significant spin-offs from the sport.
There are currently more than 300 000 petitions signed by people who are calling for a ban on the importing of endangered African animal trophies from Namibia.
The petition states that the Namibian wildlife is at risk of becoming extinct, because the animal populations are very low and vulnerable.
Trophy hunting is the selective hunting of game and other animals. Although parts of the slain animal may be kept as a hunting trophy or memorial such as the skin and antlers, the carcass itself is usually given away as food to local communities.
It is the desire of any hunter to shoot an animal for a trophy, which they can hang against the wall. But the meat of the dead animal which we receive from the hunter means a lot to us, as we can feed our families, said ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancy hunting guide, Albert Guruseb during a recent media trip to the Kunene Region.
Conservancies received about half a million tonnes of meat last year from trophy hunters, which represents meals of about two million tonnes of meat given to community members. The meat was valued at about N.dollars 6 million.
In the Zambezi Region, conservancies can also receive the meat of an elephant, hippopotamus and buffalo, while in the Kunene Region conservancies receive game species that include eland, kudu, springbok, hartebeest, wildebeest, and oryx.
Namibia has 82 registered conservancies, with 20 more to be registered with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in 2015.
During the year 2013, conservancy members pocketed about N.dollars 20 million from trophy hunting alone. Community conservancies generated about N.dollars 72.2 million in returns for local communities and about 6 472 jobs were created in conservancies during the same year.
Guruseb is optimistic that the sport could go a long way in helping people there.
However, this might only be possible if members of the international community ensure that the hunting is done in a sustainable way.
The ≠Khoadi-//Hôas conservancy Manager, Hilga /Gawises said ancient civilisations used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill game species and other large animals, and this has continued to this day.
For as long as our wildlife is not extinct, trophy hunting is acceptable. If there were no conservancies with proper management structures in place, unemployment will be high and people will steal and poach, she warned.
A scientist at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Dr Greg Stuart-Hill told Nampa at the conservancy that despite the fact that trophy hunting is perceived as the evil of all, trophy hunting has no negative environmental impact, and conservancies make a huge amount of money while communities benefit from the meat.
Contrary to what people think, only a few animals are removed from the wild through trophy hunting, he said.
Stuart-Hill further noted that while wildlife numbers have increased over the years, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) has also increased in many conservancies.
While the shooting of animals for own-use or shoot for the pot seems to be acceptable to many, it can be damaging to the herd. In most cases, only the young and female game species are shot. The only advantage is that the poor get food, said Stuart-Hill.
About the shooting and selling of animals in conservancies, he said this is causing a disturbance, as it damages the survival chain of animal populations.
The only benefit is that communities get the money from the sale of the meat, he said.
About game capturing, Stuart-Hill explained that people think it is least damaging to animals, but the scars can remain for life.
Farmers or lodge owners buy species to breed and females are sought after. This can damage the survival of populations. It is also a noisy exercise with helicopters chasing the animals in all directions, Stuart-Hill said
The WWF scientist said the advantage in this respect is that people get fed and the meat does not go to waste.
Trophy hunting is an ideal win-win situation. It is just like shoot-for-own-use. The by-products such as the horns and skin is of no-use to the community, but sold to the hunter at a huge price. People tend to forget that with trophy hunting, communities still receive the meat, he added.