SCI Foundation’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum convenes this week in Windhoek, Namibia. Namibia is an especially appropriate host for the AWCF, as the country is a worldwide leader in the sustainable use model of wildlife conservation. Sustainable use of natural resources supports the most effective models for wildlife and habitat management and conservation in the world. This model connects local economies and communities to conservation by creating a structure to benefit from their wildlife and habitat. In southern Africa, regulated hunting of wildlife returns money, food, services, anti-poaching resources, and more to communities and landowners. Here are some facts on the success of this conservation model in Namibia:
- A recent study ranked Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe among the top five countries for megafauna conservation, and Zambia and Mozambique among the top 15 – all ahead of the U.S.
- Hunting provides the most important source of revenue for many range state wildlife authorities. The countries with regulated hunting have the largest populations of lions, elephant, rhinos, giraffe, and many other animals in the world.
- In a three-year period, hunting generated $2.4 million (without including fees from black rhino hunts) for Namibia’s Game Products Trust Fund. These funds are reinvested in wildlife conservation.
- Hunting generates around 50% of community benefits from conservancies in Namibia, including monies, meat, and social benefits; much of the revenue is then reinvested into wildlife conservation and management. Communal conservancies in Namibia have grown from 35,000 square km in 2004 to over 166,000 square km today.
- Almost 55% of the hunting revenues in Namibia’s communal conservancies come from elephant hunting alone. These revenues benefit approximately 220,000 people.
- A study of rural community members in Namibia found that 91% opposed any ban on hunting.
Within this conservation model, there are few stories as prominent as rhino conservation. Here are some facts about Namibia’s rhinos:
- The most robust black rhino populations exist largely because of habitat protected, and anti-poaching efforts funded, by hunting. Namibia contains the largest free-ranging black rhino population in the world.
- Black rhino are one of many examples of hunting as a population management tool. Older males are individually selected for hunting when they are no longer reproducing effectively and interfering with breeding by younger males.
- By using hunting to control “surplus” male black rhino, Namibia and South Africa have managed for high population growth and reduced intra-species conflicts.
- Over 90% of the global white rhino population and over 70% of the black rhino population lives in Namibia and South Africa. According to the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group, “both species of rhino have increased considerably since sport hunting of white and black rhino resumed in 1968 and 2005 respectively.”
- The hunting is very sustainable: approximately 83 white rhino and five black rhino are hunted each year across the two countries, representing only 0.50% and 0.13% of the current white and black rhino populations, respectively, in the two countries.
- In addition to benefiting the population, hunting generates significant funding to be reinvested in further conservation activities, such as when a hunter paid $350,000 to hunt a black rhino in Namibia that was post-reproductive and killing other rhinos. Those funds were invested in law enforcement training and equipment, an anti-poaching intelligence system, and a black rhino survey in Etosha National Park, Namibia.
- Funds from hunting black rhinos in Namibia are allocated to black rhino conservation projects. Recent projects have included black rhino population surveys, rhino crime investigation and prosecution, and building a rhino DNA tracking system.
One thing is certain: southern African countries are the experts in the conservation of African. Yet, the Western world often attempts to control Africa’s wildlife, resources, and trade. Science-based, regulated, sustainable use – especially hunting – is proven as the most effective conservation tool in the world. SCIF will be discussing these topics and more at this week’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Namibia. Follow along for updates on issues from biologists, academics, conservation organizations, professional hunting groups, and range state government officials.