Namibia welcomes US court ruling to import hunting trophies

01 Apr 2016 11:10am
WINDHOEK, 01 APR (NAMPA) - Namibian has welcomed a court ruling that overturned a bid to stop the importation of rhinoceros trophies from the Southern African country into the United States of America (US).
Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta noted that the dismissal is critical for Namibia’s conservation, particularly on black rhinos and other endangered species.
“This milestone would not only go a long way in contributing positively to conservation but also clearly points out that as a country, we are on the right path with our methodologies for conservation,” said Shifeta.
A US federal judge sidelined a challenge to permits that allow trophy imports of endangered black rhinoceroses hunted in Namibia, according to US website on Monday.
“The court recognises plaintiffs' sincere commitment to the preservation of endangered animals and this ruling does not suggest that there is no relationship between the importation of trophies of endangered animals and protecting these species,” said U.S. Columbia District Judge Amy Berman.
“But the relationship between the particular permits challenged here, which authorize the import of spoils of hunts that were entirely within Namibia's control, and plaintiffs' feared diminished enjoyment of black rhinoceros in Namibia in the future, is too attenuated to confer standing on plaintiffs,” Jackson added. Friends of Animals and the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force had brought the federal complaint at issue after the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued 'trophy' import permits in March 2015 for a pair of hunting tourists.
While one of the permits was prospective - Corey Knowlton had won an auction to participate in a hunt staged by Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism - the other permit allowed Michael Luzich to import the carcass of a rhino he killed in 2013.
Though the conservationists said these permits would embolden rhino poaching, Judge Jackson called the argument ‘conclusory’, noting it depends on the actions of third parties who are not before the court.
Even if the court were to void the permits, that would not stop Namibia from staging hunts to kill black rhinos, according to the ruling.
The hunting of the rhinos took place during January 2014 and May 2015, collectively raising over US dollars 550 000 (about N.dollars 5.7 million to the Game Products Trust Fund for the hunt of black rhinos. The fund pays for rhinoceros conservation projects such as law enforcement and anti poaching activities; community benefits such as human wildlife conflict (HWC) pay-outs and game counts and surveys.
This case is not the only case against Namibia for the import of trophies that was dismissed. A suit was also filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the District Court in Virginia but was dismissed by that court on similar grounds last year.
Shifeta said Namibia’s conservation efforts are of the best and praised all over the world. Namibia won the 2012 Markhor Award for outstanding conservation performance in recognition of its exceptional wildlife conservation programme.
If the ban was imposed, the 83 registered conservancies in Namibia with thousands of community members would fall back into the poverty trap, while poaching could be on the increase, warned Shifeta.
“It is common knowledge that our conservation has resulted in the growth of wildlife populations inside and outside our protected areas. Our story has been hailed across the globe as it also seeks to empower Namibian citizens, particularly those in rural areas through employment creation and income generation activities,” he added.