Locals take on EU over trophy ban plan

Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu has called for support against threats from European countries that plan to lobby for a ban on imports of trophy hunting products into the European Union (EU) – an activity that netted Namibia N$18 million last year.

Sampofu said revenue generated from trophy hunting is used to pay the salaries of community game guards, for the cost of managing wildlife, and to provide benefits to poor rural families.

Echoing Sampofu’s sentiments the representatives of 15 conservancies in the Zambezi Region, who wrote to the European parliament, said if the EU was truly committed to wildlife conservation they would have engaged them to further investigate the evidence that demonstrates how hunting has played a critical role in conservation, rather than threatening it.

Representatives of the 15 conservancies stated: “We have secured positive conservation, not only in our region, but also to the benefit of surrounding countries in the vast 500 000 square kilometer area of the KAZA conservation area, where there is both the largest elephant population in Africa and the largest conservation area on the continent.”

“We humbly suggest that our voices and experience are listened to in a situation that has no simplistic and single solutions, and would welcome the opportunity to directly engage with the European parliament in any way possible in order to allow our voices to be heard.”

The members said the debate around trophy hunting (or as they prefer to call it, “conservation hunting’) and the conservation of wildlife, particularly of elephants in Africa, have often not taken into account the experiences of those in the local communities who have over a period of more than 25 years found ways in which both people and wildlife can prosper.

“We feel that any consideration of a ban on trophy hunting products by European countries on behalf of their citizens should also consider the knowledge, experience and likely impacts on citizens, such as ourselves in Namibia, who have freely chosen over two decades to live with and promote the increase in wildlife, and to increase the land we allocate to wildlife. We have strong cultural and development needs that directly relate to wildlife and its sustainable use,” they stated.

“We have elected of our own choice to link wildlife conservation to our urgent local development and poverty reduction needs, and we have created democratic decision making processes here in Zambezi from households to our elected conservancy leadership, and we work in open partnership with our government and others to make conservation succeed.

“We believe we have been successful in linking development, democracy and the conservation of our wildlife, to deliver improved livelihoods for our people, together with a higher status for our wildlife,” the group further stated. The representatives said much of this progress depends on their ability to continue to choose options, like trophy hunting, in conservation and development.

“If we are denied this choice we do not have viable alternative uses of wildlife or incomes to replace them, and the large majority of the conservancies in our region will fail. Conservation and local development would then depend on external aid and charity – and we have not spent the past two decades working to become beggars.”

“This is neither to our benefit, nor do we think to the benefit of those in Europe or elsewhere, who seek to support either elephants, conservation or development in rural Africa. Nor does it indicate that democratic choices, involving those like us who pay the greatest costs, or achieve the clearest progress in conservation or development, is being respected,” their media statement further read.

Meanwhile, NACSO (the Namibian Association of Community-based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations) notes and supports the position of Sampofu, taken in his letter to members of the European parliament (MEPs), urging them to investigate how hunting has secured conservation in the region, and not threatened it.

NACSO director Maxi Louis said the organisation is fully committed to supporting Namibian communal conservancies and regional conservancy associations in their opposition to any ban on the importation of hunting trophies to the EU.

To date, Kunene Regional Community Conservancy Association, representing 29 conservancies, 15 Zambezi Region conservancies, and the Kyaramacan Association, representing residents in Bwabwata National Park, have all written letters to MEPs, and conservancies in Kunene South and Erongo are currently writing letters in opposition to any proposed ban.

NACSO said it fully supports the position of the Namibian government in its opposition to a ban on the importation of hunting trophies to the EU, on the grounds that this would damage the Namibian economy and conservation efforts. Louis said NACSO is actively engaging with EU ambassadors in Namibia to inform them of the risks of any ban.

Story courtesy of Newera Publications Corporation