Today Namibia has become one of the most popular trophy hunting destinations in Southern Africa. This is due in part to its political stability and diversity, a well-developed infrastructure, the ease with which hunting rifles may be temporarily imported into the country, and the friendliness and warm hospitality of the people. The key component, however, is Namibia’s land-use and game-management policies, which have created great and healthy populations of game and which enable three basic types of sustainable trophy hunting. As well, Namibian hunting professionals are recognized as among the best trained and most ethical in the world. This is largely due to the high certification standards set by Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the self-policing work of the Namibian Professional Hunting Association.
Despite Namibia’s success in positioning itself as a model for sustainable, fair-chase trophy hunting, the industry here and worldwide is now being severely affected by the global economic contraction. A longer-term threat is the gradual attrition in numbers of recreational hunters in much of Europe and the USA.
This paper concludes that ethical, fair chase and selective trophy hunting has proved to be a successful conservation tool as well as the most lucrative form of commercial and communal land utilization in Namibia, with obvious ecological as well as economic benefits.
Hunting is part and parcel of Africa, the land where Mankind began. It is built into the life of our continent and the spirit of our people. Namibia is emphatically a pro-wildlife and wildlife-utilization country, and our progressive national constitution is the first in the world to formally enshrine the sustainable utilization of living natural resources.
We know that it is essential to utilize this land effectively for our people and our wildlife, and our hands-on experience has shown that the most beneficial and sustainable form of rural land utilization is, indeed, trophy hunting. By this I mean finding, stalking and bagging a good representative example of a certain species of game, which confers great monetary value upon an animal, as opposed to hunting for subsistence.
We also recognize that as we take on the many challenges of our time in Africa, including poverty, education and land reform, our focus increasingly must be on the most effective utilization of land for the direct benefit of human beings.
In political terms, wildlife is not yet considered agriculture, but at our family’s as well as other Namibia game farmers’ vast private lands, our game animals most certainly are products of the land. In Namibia traditional agriculture once focused on domestic stock such as cattle, sheep and goats, and wild game was shot indiscriminately. This attitude is now almost completely outmoded in Namibia.
Trophy hunting began in Namibia in the 1960s, as a sideline to traditional agriculture, in areas where game such as springbuck, oryx, kudu and warthog were plentiful. This nascent industry was mainly based on the free-market system and began with an absolute minimum of government interference, which at least initially ensured efficiency and equitable access. It has grown steadily ever since, and has, inevitably and appropriately, come under a degree of government supervision. In 2007 trophy hunting in Namibia generated revenues of $ N316 million, representing 2.3% of the Gross Domestic Product. Note that this does not include secondary goods and services such as airfares, shoulder accommodations and meals, game-park fees, car rentals, shopping and so on, which would approximately double this figure.
The cattle industry, Namibia’s main agricultural sector, achieved $N637.1 million in 2007. However, at that point trophy hunting had already far surpassed our country’s other main agricultural components: small stock at $N285.1 million and other livestock at $N258.2 million. To put these values into perspective, note that our hunting industry revenue grew by 12% annually from 1996 to 2006. This considerably outpaced the goal of 7% annual growth that was set by “Government in Vision 2030,” a white paper on economic development in Namibia.
This strong growth led to the following official statement in the introduction of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s New Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill, which is currently in its final draft stage:
Generally the approach of the Bill is to build on the successful conservation of wildlife and wild habitats in Namibia over the past 30 years and particularly since Independence.
This success has been based on devolving rights over wildlife to freehold and communal area landholders. By giving landholders rights to use wildlife and benefit from it, government has provided incentives for conservation. This has resulted in the fact that 80% of wildlife is found outside of protected areas, and wildlife is increasing on communal land. A strong wildlife industry has been created that, linked to tourism, is a major contributor to the national economy. Income and other benefits such as jobs and training linked to wildlife and tourism in communal area conservancies are contributing to combating poverty.
Our wildlife is a natural resource, which, if managed properly through game ranching and utilized sustainably through fee-based trophy hunting, has the potential to develop into one of our country’s most valuable renewable assets. We are a nation with a proud hunting heritage, and our trophy-hunting sector is well respected by our government and fellow Namibians as an essential and integral part of Namibia’s conservation, tourism, farming and business industries.
In the 1960s, when trophy hunting was just beginning in Namibia, game ranching was unknown in our country. In those days wild animals were seen to be in direct competition with domestic stock for grazing and water, and therefore a liability for a stock farmer. By the late ’60s, farmers began to realize that game indeed had value, and increasingly thereafter our wild animals came to be seen as an asset. Since the mid-1970s the numbers of wild animals on private land has increased dramatically. As our American friends would say, “If it pays, it stays.”
Namibia has a dual economy. On the one hand, we have a modern, well-organized and efficient commercial segment; and on the other, a less well-structured communal portion, in which our tribal peoples mainly rely on subsistence agriculture. The communal, or tribal, subsistence sector only recognized the value of sustainable utilization of wildlife after Namibia’s independence in 1990. This was mainly because until then local communities had no decisive rights over game and thus no interest in it. Although commercial farmers were granted conditional ownership of game on their lands during the 1960s, the rural people of the communal areas only received utilization rights through the Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996, which makes provision for communal conservancies.
Experience in Namibia and elsewhere has repeatedly shown that the value of wildlife on both private and communal land can be greatly increased through wildlife-based commerce such as trophy hunting and tourism, even at much lower levels of stocking and utilization.
In Namibia, the greatest portions of revenue from game-ranching ventures derive from trophy hunting, live animal sales and tourism, not the sale of venison, and overall the potential return from wildlife far exceeds that of cattle. Once farmers and local communities realized that their game offered so much more than meat value, they were less likely to engage in uncontrolled hunting and more likely to become conservation-conscious. The next step is to understand that the only way to ensure the long-term survival of wildlife is to use the game wisely for the benefit of man.
Hunting game in order to preserve game
If it were not for trophy hunting, wild animals in most of Africa would have little value to the local people and would be killed indiscriminately because they compete with domestic livestock and occupy land that could be farmed, built on or otherwise developed. In explaining this to uninformed non-hunters, it is helpful to point out that domestic stock are the least likely species to become extinct simply because they are the most utilized animals on earth and thus have become an essential part of our food chain. Through trophy hunting, our wild animals have earned even greater value than merely that of their meat and hide, which makes them more important yet to the livelihood of African farmers and communities. As a result, wildlife in Namibia is managed effectively in order to ensure its survival on private as well as communal lands.
Quantitatively and qualitatively, the results of the past four decades show that trophy hunting has been one of the most successful wildlife conservation initiatives in Namibia. Trophy hunting has developed into an extremely lucrative form of land use as well as a most effective wildlife management tool. Thus vast tracts of farmland have been bought up and consolidated by hunting operators, who then remove miles of stock fences and other infrastructure in order to restore wildlife habitat. The result is game ranches where wild animals can breed and range within a functional ecosystem.
Types of hunting in Namibia
Namibia offers a variety of hunting opportunities to meet most requirements and budgets. Prices are scaled to the quality, number and species of trophies, the size of the party and of course location and duration.
Farm Hunting is very popular, especially among hunting clients from Europe. Species offered depend on the region, but are usually limited to widespread Namibian game such as kudu, gemsbok, hartebeest, springbuck, warthog, Hartmann’s (mountain) zebra, duiker, steenbuck, jackal and baboon. Cheetah, leopard and caracal are often taken on farms as well.
Farm hunting was developed by stock farmers who wished to diversify their sources of income, so hunting usually takes place alongside normal farming activities and among domestic livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep. In recent years, conservancies have been developed in commercial farming areas wherein farmers cooperate with each other on the conservation and sustainable utilization of their combined wildlife resources. This has the benefit to the client of enlarging the hunting area as well as offering a greater animal population.
Accommodations are typically comfortable, either in specially built and well-equipped facilities or the farm homestead itself, with the owner’s family. This is the ideal way to get to know the people of the country and be exposed to Namibia’s unique and charming lifestyle, cultures and traditions. The host is usually a licensed Hunting Guide or Master Hunting Guide, and this is the best arrangement for the budget-conscious trophy hunter.
Private Game Ranches in dedicated wildlife areas with no domestic stock or interior fences are widespread and becoming increasingly popular in Namibia. The range of trophies they offer is very diverse and often includes sable, blesbuck, giraffe, Cape eland, Livingstone eland, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, southern and black-faced impala, Burchell’s zebra, steenbuck, duiker, tsessebe, white rhino, roan and Damara dik-dik, as well as all the species found on farms and conservancies. Private game ranches in Namibia typically encompass at least 25,000 acres (40 square miles) and some are more than 100,000 acres.
Accommodation is usually in luxurious lodges or tent camps and the facilities, service and cuisine are of world-class standard with a distinctly Namibian flair, and the emphasis on the classic African safari ambiance.
Although some people in the international hunting community categorically reject trophy hunting “behind wire” – inside a high game fence, that is – those who have had proper, first-hand experience with it generally develop a different opinion. Hunting in a huge wilderness area, one where game animals exist naturally and self-sustainably, can be carried out well within the guidelines for ethical, fair-chase sport (“the pursuit of free wild animals, possessing the natural behavioural inclination to escape from a hunter and fully free to do so” – see the Addendum) even if, somewhere in the distance, there is a fence. Even unfenced regions have boundaries.
Namibia also has 55 registered Communal Conservancies, covering approximately 126,000 square kilometres (49,000 square miles) or 15.3% of the country. These contain hunting concessions in tribal areas where, until recently, communities often found themselves in direct conflict with wildlife for resources. Trophy hunting – carried out by Namibian Professional Hunters in contract with the government and the tribal authorities – greatly benefits these conservancies, where it is now firmly established as a wildlife-management tool and the primary source of income and meat for often marginalized and remote communities. This is ideal for the adventurous trophy hunter who wants to experience “old Africa” in rugged and remote, very sparsely populated areas.
Most hunting for the Big Five takes place in these areas, which have produced some of the largest elephant (the heaviest ivory) taken on the continent during the past two decades.
In 2008 Namibia adopted a new policy to regulate the granting of tourism and trophy hunting permits on state land, which includes game parks as well as protected and communal areas. This will serve as the basis for new laws concerning concessions that are to become part of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s New Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill. The new policy lays down clear objectives and principles for the granting of concessions, including empowerment objectives for the communities in these areas. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism held a much-anticipated trophy-hunting concession auction on April 22, 2009. The hunting rights for five large areas of state land outside communal conservancies were leased for three-year periods to Namibian-registered companies for record prices. The concessions were the Mahongo Game Park, the Eastern Kavongo Region, Western Kavongo Region & Mangetti National Park, the Waterberg Plateau Park as well as Daan Viljoen & von Bach Parks. Three black rhinoceros concessions were also auctioned.
Licensing hunting professionals
Intelligent game-management programs to ensure sustainable yields are only part of the whole. Education and training are also of utmost importance as the trophy hunting industry must be responsible for the safety of clients in situations that go far beyond normal tourist activities. To this end, Namibia has several categories of Hunting Professionals, and our country’s standards of training as well as the criteria for these categories are respected around the world. To qualify, applicants must pass both theoretical and practical hunting examinations set by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
The entry level is that of Hunting Guide, a person licensed to guide hunts on his or her own farm, or the farm where he or she is employed, as well as a conservancy where the land may be registered. A Master Hunting Guide may hunt on two additional farms where the hunting rights are registered in his or her name.
The next rank is Professional Hunter. To become a PH, unless the owner of a guest farm or hunting operation the applicant must successfully complete a two-year apprenticeship with a registered PH and then tackle the notoriously difficult theoretical and practical examinations. A MET-certified PH may hunt with clients anywhere in Namibia with the permission of the land owner.
A Big Game (or Dangerous Game) PH is, in addition to the above, also licensed to take clients to hunt lion, buffalo, elephant, crocodile and rhino. This class of Hunting Professional must first qualify as a PH before gaining the required experience hunting dangerous game and then passing further examinations.
Any of these certified professionals may also qualify as a Bow Hunting Guide by attending a specialized course and passing another set of tests. All Namibian Hunting Professionals are required to hold current MET certificates, to be registered with the Namibian Tourism Board and to refresh their first aid training every two years.
The Namibian Professional Hunting Association
One of the turning points in the history of trophy hunting in Namibia came in 1974, when a group of interested parties banded together to establish NAPHA, the Namibian Professional Hunting Association. NAPHA has become one of the most active and respected organizations of its kind in the world. Although it is a private, not-for-profit and non-governmental organization, NAPHA works closely with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on hunting-related matters. NAPHA members are expected to adhere to strict codes of ethics and guidelines that address hunting and the environment as well as business and social issues.
While many skinners and trackers have superb hunting skills as well as a deep knowledge of fauna and flora, they are often unable to qualify as Hunting Professionals because they are illiterate or semi-literate. One of NAPHA’s proudest achievements was our successful negotiation with MET to allow verbal theoretical examinations. The high standard of the examination is not affected in any way, and the practical test has remained the same. The NAPHA Education committee drew up a detailed syllabus for an intensive 10-day preparatory course with the Eagle Rock Hunting Academy, run by veteran PH and NAPHA founding member Volker Grellmann, and, since the inception of this program in 2001, 169 previously disadvantaged Namibians have thus qualified as Hunting Guides or Professional Hunters.
A NAPHA “Hunters Support Education” committee provides books, computers, photocopiers, faxes and even mattresses, blankets, towels and catering equipment to schools across Namibia that educate children from the hunting community. Since 2004, 18 schools have received donations worth more than N$500,000. This does not include the independent donations – of funds, learning materials, supplies and meat from the hunt – made by many hunting operators and their guests to schools throughout Namibia. Hunters Support Education also recently introduced an initiative to reward individual students from these schools, selected for their academic excellence and model citizenship. The first award ceremonies took place at the end of 2008; the winners were honoured with NAPHA Certificates as well as N$250 cash prizes. Schools that receive support from NAPHA report an increase in pass rates, especially in the higher grades, resulting from greater motivation among both learners and teachers.
Funding for these Hunter Support Education programs comes from the sale of NAPHA medals and donations from hunters as well as international hunting organizations such as Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club. NAPHA members believe that education is the most effective way to end the cycle of poverty in Namibia. Trophy hunters are regarded as generous and supportive by the community and it is heart-warming to see the enthusiastic waves and bright smiles of recognition when driving past a rural school in a hunting truck.
Hunting legislation in Namibia
One of NAPHA’s first actions as a duly constituted body was to petition Government for legislation to regulate the trophy hunting industry. Thus “Ordinance No. 4 of 1975 on Nature Conservation” and “Regulations on Trophy Hunting No. 240 of 1976” came into being. These codes stipulate, among other things, that only registered persons and establishments, meeting strict requirements, may participate in commercial trophy hunting. This was regarded as a management tool to help achieve sustainable utilization of game in Namibia.
Namibian firearms law was designed not to unnecessarily impede visiting trophy hunters, who may temporarily import their own rifles and shotguns with no advance permitting. (Visitors may be asked only to show proof that they have booked a hunt with a registered Namibian hunting operator.) The Namibian Police issue Temporary Weapons Importation Permits at the airport or other point of entry into our country, and this document must be shown again upon departure. A maximum of 100 rounds of ammunition, for the specific calibre only, may be imported. For safety as well as humane kills, there are legal minimum calibres for hunting small, medium and large game. Handguns and automatic weapons are prohibited.
Our trophy hunting legislation was put in place not only to guide participants, but also, when necessary, to investigate and punish wrongdoing. Following is a current example of how NAPHA and MET work together to enforce the law and maintain ethical hunting standards:
Leopard and cheetah hunting in Namibia face a number of challenges. On April 24 th and June 15 th, 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism issued a moratorium, first on cheetah and then on leopard, for trophy permits. The reasoning was that the CITES export quotas for these two species had been exhausted for 2009. MET’s decision was supported by our Association, although several PHs had to inform clients of this development at short notice.
At the same time, allegations of unscrupulous and illegal hunting of leopard and cheetah, often involving unregistered and unqualified foreigners acting as hunting professionals, began to reach NAPHA. The Executive Committee took action to protect Namibia’s game and our reputation as a destination for ethical hunting and called an urgent meeting of the general membership, on July 31 st, 2009, to discuss the situation.
At the meeting, an overwhelming majority voted to request MET to temporarily suspend leopard hunting with hounds, to take immediate effect, and not issue trophy leopard or cheetah permits for 2010, in order to use the year to put effective controls in place. NAPHA also elected a Predator Hunting Committee to draft and implement these controls. At the time of writing, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has not yet issued an official statement.
The population of huntable game – largely kudu, oryx, springbuck and warthog – on privately owned land in Namibia has grown by 8% per annum since 1972. However, since 2005 the off-take of those species by the trophy hunting industry has increased by 22.5% per annum. In addition, non-trophy game animals are also utilized for meat as well as live capture and sale.
Thus the demand for certain species of game has begun to grow at a more rapid rate than production and we are no longer using those game populations sustainably. NAPHA is consequently reaching out to commercial farmers (that is, those raising crops or domestic stock for market rather than subsistence) to educate them about game ranching and trophy hunting.
In July 2008 NAPHA presented its first workshop specifically for commercial farmers coming on, in order to promote game ranching and trophy hunting as an effective and lucrative form of land use, provided it is done in a controlled, sustainable and ethical manner. The workshop was attended by government ministers, members of parliament and new farmers as well as business people aspiring to become farmers and trophy hunting operators. The majority of the farmers who attended came from previously disadvantaged communities.
The Ministry of Environment recently introduced a program to stock farms belonging to emerging commercial farmers free of charge with breeding populations of a variety of game species, with the agreement that MET would capture the same number of animals for relocation once viable herds had been established on the farms. This initiative is expected to make a valuable contribution towards addressing the increase in demand for certain game species by international trophy hunting clients.
Economic challenges facing hunting
Most of the trophy hunting industry’s marketing takes place at large expositions in the USA, Europe and Asia between January and March each year. Traditionally, these events have been effective and critically important media for hunting operators from all over the world, providing opportunities to interact with many thousands of potential clients. However, recent experience shows that prospects for the safari industry have been damaged by the global economic crisis. Attendance declined dramatically at most of the conventions in late 2008 and early 2009, and as a result bookings were down noticeably as well. In addition, hunting companies in Namibia and across Africa report that a significant percentage of safaris already booked for 2009 and 2010 are being cancelled or postponed.
The emerging trend among those hunting clients whose financial position still allows them to travel seems to be to concentrate on the very well-established and known operators, which leaves newer companies with little business. According to Digu Naobeb, CEO of the Namibia Tourism Board, and Jackie Asheeke of FENATA, every indication is that the top end of the travel market will be less affected than the middle and lower ends. In the year to date, Air Namibia reports a 15% decrease in bookings compared to 2008, and our national airline carries 80% of the visitors traveling to Namibia from Europe.
The largest trophy hunting organization, Safari Club International (SCI), counts 55,000-plus members and 188 chapters in all 50 US states and 19 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South, Central and North America. SCI is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. SCI’s 2009 Hunters Convention, in Reno, Nevada, USA, registered fewer attendees than in 2008. (Some observers estimated attendance was down by as much as 30%.) Namibia is consistently one of the most represented African countries at the convention, with 36 outfitters exhibiting this year. The Honourable Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s Minster of Environment and Tourism, spent three days at the event, meeting with SCI executives and Namibian operators.
Dallas Safari Club, with some 4,000 members, actively promotes the conservation of wildlife and wilderness lands, and educates youth and the general public to protect the interests of hunters. The traffic at its convention this year was also far less than expected. Namibia was represented by 33 trophy hunting operators.
The annual German hunting convention, Jagd und Hund, in Dortmund, attracted 38 Namibian vendors. Hunting and outdoor shows in France, Canada, Scandinavia and Asia attracted Namibian operators as well, but attendance and bookings across the board were also much lower than usual.
German-speaking countries have traditionally been the source of most of Namibia’s trophy hunting visitors. However, recent statistics from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism indicate that while Germans hunting in Namibia over a 10-year period increased from 1,490 to 1,905, the number of trophy hunters from the USA in the same decade swelled from 155 to 1,516. The American market is thus now one of Namibia’s most important, but it is also the one most affected by the global economic contraction. A downturn in hunting revenues threatens the further development of trophy hunting in our country for at least the short to medium term.
Cultural challenges facing hunting
By August 2009, financial data from the USA, Britain, Germany, France and Italy indicated that the losses to those economies seemed to have been stemmed and recovery, however slow, was in the foreseeable future. As consumers in those countries regain confidence, not to say some of the value of their portfolios, it is expected that they will eventually resume trophy hunting and other recreational activities. However, there is a larger, long-term threat to the business of trophy hunting, and that is the steady shrinkage in the numbers of hunters in much of Europe and North America.
Between 1996 and 2006 the number of hunters in the USA declined by 10% overall, to approximately 12 million. In Europe, 11 out of 20 countries showed declines in their hunting populations between 1996 and 2006. One of the largest downturns occurred in Italy, which lost 20% of its sport hunters in that period and 50% between 1980 and 2006. France experienced a drop in its hunting population of some 18% between 1996 and 2006. However, to the direct benefit of Namibia, which still gets nearly one third of its trophy hunters from there, Germany is one of the important exceptions: while in 1995 there were some 326,000 licensed German hunters, today the number has grown to approximately 350,000. Austria and Switzerland show modest increases as well (– Thomas A. Heberlein, PhD, The University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA).
Many factors contribute to these declines, but chief among them in North America appears to be the continual urbanization of populations, while overall factors include the aging of hunters and the lack of new hunter recruitment.
Thanks to the country’s excellent hunting opportunities, the variety and quality of game species, outstanding hunting professionals and the focus on fair chase, our political stability and well-developed infrastructure, Namibia is now firmly established as one of Africa’s most popular and successful trophy hunting destinations.
As Namibian citizens, it is essential for each of us to utilize our land to its fullest potential in sustainable ways by developing farming operations that make meaningful contributions to our country. Game ranching and trophy hunting are, without a doubt, two of the most lucrative means of doing so. The inherent biological, ecological and physiological advantages of wild animals, and the fact that wildlife offers substantial extra value beyond meat and hide, make game ranching and trophy hunting extremely beneficial forms of land utilization, as well as proven tools for conservation.
It is with pride I say that the results of the past four decades have proved that selective, ethical and sustainable trophy hunting is one of the most lucrative forms of land utilization as well as a great conservation tool in our country.
Trophy hunting currently employs more people and pays better salaries, as well as provides more training, skill recognition and job promotion opportunities than any other form of commercial agricultural or communal conservancy land utilization in Namibia.
The Namibian trophy hunting industry can do little to counteract the effects of the global economic contraction other than to continue to offer high quality hunting for good value. While Namibia has developed its own programs, policies and legislation to sustain high-quality trophy hunting, organizations within the nations from which we draw our clientele must in turn create their own programs to sustain hunters as an ecological force. As Professor Heberlein has pointed out, it is unfortunate that while the scientific community worldwide works to protect wildlife populations, it does not take an interest in sustaining populations of hunters.
NAPHA – The Namibia Professional Hunting Association – Almut Kronsbein, Diethelm Metzger and Gudrun Heger MET – The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism – Ben Beytell, Director of Parks & Wildlife Management, and Luisa Mupetami, Director of Scientific Services Eagle Rock Hunting Academy – Volker Grellmann The Wildlife Game – Ron Thomson The Meat Board of Namibia - Willie Schutz University of Wisconsin-Madison – Thomas