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  • Feb
  • 15

Animals of Namibia

Posted by at 8:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


sand-dunesNamibia, an arid country in southern Africa, is home to an incredible variety of wildlife. My husband and I visited Namibia in 2009 and explored the deserts and savannahs of this beautiful country. We were especially interested to see how Namibia balances protection of its natural resources with the needs of its human population and developing economy.

Sadly, we learned that the Namibian government endorses the “harvesting” of many animal species. Trophy hunting permits are sold to wealthy foreigners, allowing them to kill the animals of their choice. The list of huntable species is very long and includes leopards, rhinos, and lions. The rarer the animal, the higher the price for the permit. Even the iconic oryx, Namibia’s national animal, is not exempt. We had the surreal experience of seeing oryx silhouetted against red sand dunes in a national park and then returning to the lodge to find oryx steaks on the dinner menu. The revenue generated by the trophy hunts is used to support conservation efforts, but the hunts remain hugely controversial, especially since they include even threatened species like cheetahs and elephants.

oryx

The Namibian government also sanctions an annual slaughter of Cape fur seals. Each year, 85,000 seal pups are slain by clubbing and stabbing, and their skins are sold for fur. This is about one-quarter the size of the annual seal hunt in Canada, but the killing methods are similarly cruel. We visited the Cape Cross Seal Reserve on the Namibian coast, where we saw thousands of seals enjoying the sunny beach and making playful leaps in the offshore surf. I couldn’t stop imagining the painful deaths awaiting pups like these during the next hunting season.

cape-fur-seal

After visiting the seals, I needed to hear some positive news about animals in Namibia. Fortunately, our next stop was the Doro !Nawas Conservancy area. The Namibian government permits communities to make use of the natural resources in a conservancy in exchange for responsible management of the local wildlife. (Namibia, like Bhutan, is one of the few countries in the world to have environmental protections written into its constitution.) The ecotourism camp where we stayed was a joint venture between a safari tour operator and the 450-member local community at Doro !Nawas. The community benefits from jobs and a large percentage of all revenue from the camp. The revenue then provides a financial incentive for the entire community to protect the local animals and habitat.

Our final destination in Namibia was the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which works to protect Namibia’s 2,500 cheetahs, the largest population remaining in the world. Most cheetahs don’t live in national parks or reserves because they cannot easily defend their prey (or their cubs) from stronger predators like lions and hyenas. So cheetahs live mainly in livestock farming areas. Cattle are big business in Namibia—this is a nation with a tradition of measuring wealth and status by the number of cattle you own. Hundreds of cheetahs were being shot each year by livestock farmers who suspected (sometimes erroneously) that the cheetahs were killing their animals.

cheetah

CCF has developed several creative solutions that meet the needs of both the cheetahs and the farmers. One example is how they are solving the problem of the ubiquitous thorn bushes. Decades of overgrazing and fire suppression have allowed spiny bushes to proliferate over the formerly open savannah. The bushes make it difficult for cheetahs to chase down their prey, and some cheetahs are injured or blinded by thorns while hunting. CCF’s innovation was to harvest the bushes for profit. The harvesting creates jobs, and the resulting fuel logs of sustainable, low emission “Bushblok” are sold as far away as Europe. Local communities profit from the sales, and the cheetahs regain suitable habitat.

We met some of CCF’s resident cheetahs who cannot be released into the wild. These ambassador cheetahs have helped convince Namibians that cheetahs are not just a pest to be eradicated. One of the highlights of our trip was petting the cheetahs and listening to their loud and contented purring.

We were inspired by what we learned in Namibia about effective ways to resolve conflicts between humans and animals in an increasingly crowded world.

What innovations have you seen that help free-roaming animals while also addressing human needs?

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    Joanne says...

    February 15th, 2011, 10:59 pm

    You asked for “innovations” that readers have seen which help free-roaming animals while also addressing human needs. I’m not sure if you consider this an innovation but it certainly is the most advanced SOLUTION to environmental problems which I have been fortunate enough to witness and, in a peripheral way, support. Only a short time ago I was introduced to the fact that this seal cull which you mentioned above, existed. I am primarily an artist and have been involved in human rights and environmental issues or quite some time. I recently became aware of an activist by the name of Francois Hugo who has been involved in this Namibian seal cull issue for a very long time … he has approached this from every imaginable angle and has come up with a solution which is a win-win situation for all. I love that. He has negotiated a deal with the Namibian government which will end the seal cull and simultaneously buy-out the two right holders responsible for the cull … AND establish a trust fund for a pension to pay the workers who will lose their jobs. Isn’t that just amazing?! It makes commons sense, will work for everyone, and will end this holocaust. From July to November, Namibia clubs to death 85,000 seal pups and 6,000 bull seals are shot.

    Pilar says...

    February 21st, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Lisa, as you rightly point out, Namibia was the first country in Africa to include conservation in its constitution since independence 20 years ago. They have some of the best policies, and hunting strictly adheres to CITES regulations and quotas. Namibia has the healthiest and largest population of wild cheetahs (close to 3,000), and this is thanks to the work of NGOs like the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). However, this success rests greatly on their work with the government, other NGOs, trade associations including farming and hunting, and with the community in general.

    I am not defending hunting, but if done legally and sustainably, as it is in Namibia, it is the least of the problems for cheetahs and other wildlife. Loss of habitat and conflict with livestock and game farmers are bigger problems, and those are the issues CCF is addressing with their great programs.

    I do disagree with the seal cub culling practice because of the way it is done, but remember that Namibia is far poorer than Canada or Greenland, who might not stop this horrendous practice any time soon. So I am glad to know that there might be a solution in Namibia, but we must put things in perspective.

    The best weapon in conservation is science to back up education and constructive dialogue.

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