Keep Namibia's wildlife on the land

12 January 2021 | Environment

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Widespread concern over wildlife declines is motivating ongoing global calls for action, yet interventions often do not differentiate between countries with a good conservation track record and those with declining wildlife populations.

This is according to a new report, titled 'Keep Namibia's Wildlife on the Land', published last year by the Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations (NACSO).

The report says attempts by foreign organisations to stop declines through field interventions often do not address the actual problems. “Interventions ignore the needs of local people and conservation priorities on the ground.” It adds that the public is also not informed about the main causes for large-scale wildlife declines.

“People are confusing the wellbeing of an individual animal with the health of entire populations of the same species. Through passionate but misguided social media outcries, many people want to prevent all animal deaths to stop perceived cruelty to animals and wildlife declines.”

Cruelty The report says preventing all wildlife deaths forces people to replace wildlife harvesting with other land uses.

“Wildlife will only remain on the land if land stewards benefit from it.”

According to the report Namibia's lion population is healthy and increasing and is today at its highest since independence in 1990. The lion range has also expanded significantly, especially in north-western Namibia. Furthermore, Namibia's populations of both black and white rhinos have been partly rebuilt over the last three decades and former ranges were re-established by providing economic incentives as a basic for their conservation, the report says.

Namibia's elephant population has tripled since independence and elephants have recolonised former ranges, largely facilitated by community conservation and benefits to local communities.

“Most other large wildlife species in Namibia have healthier populations today than at any time over the last 150 years.”

The report notes that differentiating between countries with successful conservation approaches and those without is essential, because conservation is a science-based management activity and successful approaches should not be undermined by generalised emotional responses and inappropriate actions.

“Conservation by the people for the people is extremely successful in Namibia – by conferring rights to own and manage wildlife to local communities, the Namibian government has empowered land holders to conserve wildlife in a healthy balance with other land uses.”

It says that Namibians embrace wildlife management as a land use, thereby safeguarding wildlife habitat throughout the country and that Namibia has documented significant wildlife recoveries in parks and on communal and freehold land throughout the country for several decades. “By harvesting small percentages of surplus animals, Namibia is keeping overall wildlife populations healthy, just as farmers anywhere in the world keep their overall livestock herds, gardens and fields healthy while harvesting an annual crop to generate income and enable development.”



Habitat loss

The report says that some of the main causes of wildlife declines can be caused by habitat loss through human land uses that are incompatible with wildlife, displacement of wildlife by agriculture and degradation of habitat by unsustainable land uses.

Other causes can also include destruction of habitat through infrastructure development, disturbance by human activity and poaching.

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