WINDHOEK - Despite high continuing poaching, Namibia prides herself in having a healthy elephant population.
This has grown drastically from an estimated 7 500 animals in 1995 to over 22 000 to date with a large percentage occurring outside parks. Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta revealed this, when presenting Namibia’s conservation success stories at the US Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council meeting on sustainable wildlife management for the benefit of people and species in Virginia on Wednesday. Namibia has healthy populations of black and white rhinos, including the largest free-roaming black rhino population outside parks in the world. Equally, Shifeta said the country has healthy lion populations in several national parks and an expanding lion population outside parks, which has grown in the northwestern Namibia from an estimated 25 animals in 1995 to around 150 today.
He further revealed Namibia has the largest population of free roaming cheetahs in the world, the vast majority of which occur outside parks. The country has healthy giraffe populations in several national parks and an expanding giraffe population outside parks and also has healthy leopard populations in several national parks and leopards occur across much of Namibia’s private and communal farmlands.
Another success he cited is a healthy crocodile population with the repletion of several species that had become locally extinct in communal areas. “We need to ask what the underlying causes of this reversal were, and what is required to maintain this trend,” he said.
The minister said this reversal in the declining populations is due to an enabling policy and legal framework aimed at the restoration of rights over wildlife and natural resources. The government use the economic value of wildlife as an incentive for conservation. He mentioned forging a strong linkage between conservation and rural development and poverty alleviation and thus the mainstreaming of Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRM) as a conservation and development strategy in national development plans. The government also enables the recovery of diminished wildlife resources and has a strong regulatory and monitoring framework for the use of wildlife resources, whether for own use, trade or conservation hunting.
Shifeta maintained that the communal conservancy movement in Namibia has proven highly popular, expanding from registration of the first four conservancies in 1998 to 86 conservancies in 2018, with communal conservancies now covering approximately 20 percent of Namibia’s surface area.
“Communal conservancies encompass around 240,000 people, making the programme one of Namibia’s most widespread and successful rural development initiatives,” he informed. He said the popularity of the CBNRM programme is being driven by escalating benefits and development opportunities, accruing to community members, including: collective income to conservancies; job creation; generation of in-kind benefits (i.e., meat, introduced game, donated equipment and goods, etc.); improved environmental services; and an increasing ability of conservancies and community forests to sponsor and or leverage rural development options.
The minister revealed that by 2016 Namibia’s conservancies already showed earnings and returns of N$111 million (more than US$7.7 million) per year.
“In many instances that would be by far the greatest source of income in an otherwise largely subsistence farming economy. In semi- and arid areas on farmland, wildlife-based tourism realises much higher rates of economic return per ha, between 30 and 250 times more than livestock on either communal or freehold farms,” Shifeta said. Through the conservancy-based community conservation and wildlife production, he said 5,147 jobs were secured in 2016 for community game guards, conservancy managers, tour guides, lodge personnel, and camping ground attendants.
This he says is a huge achievement with direct poverty reduction impacts.