Finding a balance
If communities are to live together with wildlife, to offset losses from crop raiders such as elephants and predators, including lions, they need to receive benefits in return. These come from tourism and associated income, including crafts, and from conservation hunting.
A very important benefit to conservancy residents is meat harvested from wildlife, under a quota system based upon game counts and a scientific assessment of the sustainable off-take rate. Finding a balance between the sustainable harvesting of game and the distribution of benefits, including meat, is a challenge that faces many of Namibia’s communal conservancies.
Many conservancies manage both tourism and hunting enterprises, and also harvest game to sell and to distribute as a community benefit. The varied sources of natural resource returns and the complementary roles of tourism and consumptive wildlife use, as well as the income and in-kind benefits to conservancies and households are found in figures in the Livelihoods section of this report.
Conservancies actively monitor wildlife using event books and by taking part in annual game count. The information is used to guide management decisions – and to adapt to constant environmental change, including periods of drought. Annual utilisation quotas are set, monitored and revised by the MET in liaison with conservancies through annual quota review meetings.
Quotas are the numbers of wildlife allowed to be harvested for meat and/or trophies. Due to the logistics required to bring conservancies, MET and NACSO support teams together, full quota meetings are held every third year, with annual reviews taking place in the intervening two years. Quotas are based upon numbers assessed from game counts and other monitoring methods.
The quota setting system has been in place since 1998 and is coordinated by the MET with support from NACSO members. Annual quota setting meetings take into account both local knowledge and information gathered, including game census and event book data, harvest returns and desired stocking rates of both wildlife and livestock.
The meetings promote discussions and encourage private sector participation. The community agrees on quotas for own-use meat harvesting, conservation hunting, shoot-and-sell meat harvesting and live-capture-and-sale. Conservancies then request quotas from the MET, and these requests are further reviewed by senior MET officials at national level before being approved or amended.
Harvest rates require careful consideration based on recognised scientific methods. Depending on environmental conditions, springbok populations can, for example, grow by up to 40% per year, while gemsbok and zebra populations may grow by 20%. Harvest rates of less than 20% per year for these species are therefore unlikely to reduce overall populations under normal conditions. Game use data shows that harvest rates remain below estimated growth rates, even as a percentage of the animals actually seen during game counts.
A review of 2018
- The year was not a quota setting year: this happens every 3 years and will take place in 2019
- Quota feedback meetings were held, which showed that quotas were generally under-utilised due to drought
- Many conservancies have Game Management Utilisation Plans that are out of date
- Conservancies were disappointed that predators causing HWC could not be added to conservation hunting quotas due to MET procedures
In 2018 conservancies hunted animals within their prescribed quotas, but generally the quotas for 2018 were under-utilised compared with 2017. For example, there were 738 trophy hunted animals in 2017 versus 688 in 2018. Similarly 1,340 animals were hunted for own use (meat) in 2017 compared to 554 in 2018. Generally under-utilisation could be attributed to the effects of extended drought. However, the reduction in offtake for own use could also be attributed to the fact that there was a moratorium on own use in Kunene and Erongo Regions. It is also important to note that most of the Game Management Utilisation Plans are outdated, so game management is based on outdated plans.
Conservancies expected to have more predators on their quotas because these animals were causing more problems in 2018. The conservancies were not granted this wish because predators are to be dealt with according to the MET problem animal guidelines. The long term implication is that conservancies might start retaliating against predators that take livestock; taking action into their own hands.
Quotas were not reduced in 2018 as a result of the feedback meetings. The only ‘reduction’ was due to the the moratorium on own-use hunting. However, the quotas were a continuation of the reduced quoatas for the 2017-2019, down from the 2014 -2016 period due to drought conditions and reduced numbers of plains game.
There is a self-imposed moratorium on shoot and sell hunting in Kunene and Erongo regions, again, due to drought and a realisation by conservancies that income from meat sales is less valuable to conservancy members than meat from own-use hunting. As of 2020, when the new quota setting cycle begins, all conservancies will be required to request permission from the MET for shoot and sell or live capture of game. This ensure that there are viable populations for these kinds of offtakes through enhances supervision.
Live game capture and shoot and sell hunting tends to damage wildlife populations because dealers obviously want bigger and healthier animals. For this reason the MET wants to conduct research before allowing these operations to continue.
What is conservation hunting?
To ensure a sound understanding of conservation issues and threats, clear distinctions are needed between illegal hunting and legal, well-controlled hunting that makes a tangible and positive contribution to communities and the environment.
Legal trophy hunting carried out in communal conservancies under the control of professional hunters is defined as conservation hunting, as it has clear, measurable conservation and human development outcomes. The label conservation hunting is used by the MET and NACSO to describe legal hunting in communal conservancies.
Poaching by local people is stealing from others, as no community returns are generated and indiscriminate, uncontrolled killings have severe impacts.
Wildlife crime is commercial poaching, which indiscriminately and ruthlessly targets animals for their valuable parts, to be smuggled to markets in Asia or elsewhere.
Conservation hunting includes legal trophy hunting, ‘own-use’ hunting by conservancies for meat, and ‘shoot and sell’ hunting for meat sold to butcheries. It has the following verifiable prerequisites and outcomes:
- It is governed by a national legal framework with clear systems of controls and reporting requirements.
- It meets all CITES and IUCN species conservation criteria.
- It targets only free-roaming, indigenous species in natural habitats large enough to ensure healthy population dynamics.
- Wildlife population trends in the greater landscape are closely monitored and offtakes are adapted as needed to ensure the population health of all targeted species.
- Hunting offtakes are sustainable, based on species-specific, scientifically-accepted annual quotas for the hunted population.
- It promotes the natural diversity of all indigenous fauna and flora in the hunting area.
- It safeguards wildlife habitat (the hunting area) against destructive land uses.
- A major portion of generated income goes back to the land holders and is spent on the conservation and human development needs of the hunting area.
- It employs local people to carry out conservation activities in the hunting area, including wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching activities.
- It mitigates human-wildlife conflict amongst local communities if these occur in, or adjacent to, the hunting area.
Through these criteria, conservation hunting creates clear incentives to adopt wildlife management as a land use.