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SOS Rhino : In the News : Human Stampede to Hunt in Namibia's Game Parks

Human Stampede to Hunt in Namibia's Game Parks

  The Namibian (Windhoek)

December 6, 2004
Posted to the web December 6, 2004

Lindsay Dentlinger

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to sell off trophy hunting concessions on State land has been postponed until early next year because of the overwhelming response.

An auction to award 18 concessions, the largest number ever, for 2005 - 2009 at national parks and game camps across the country had been scheduled by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) for Thursday in Windhoek.

In terms of the State plan, hunting will be allowed at certain national parks including the Namib-Naukluft Park, Waterberg, Hobatere, Daan Viljoen, Palmwag, Von Bach and areas in the eastern Caprivi and in the Kavango.

While the Ministry is enthusiastic about a plan it says will boost the trophy hunting industry, a number of conservation groups fear the long-term damage will outweigh any possible short-term gains.

They say it will deplete game herds, traumatise game and hurt eco-tourism.

One critic went as far as saying the notion of trophy hunting "is a complete fallacy".

In a statement last week, Environment Permanent Secretary Malan Lindeque said since the auction was announced two weeks ago, the Ministry had been inundated with enquiries.

"It has become apparent to the Ministry from this good public response that many companies and individuals would need additional time and also guidance from the Ministry to structure themselves appropriately in order to achieve the empowerment objectives of the exercise and also to ensure the greatest extent of benefit sharing with rural communities in the vicinity of such hunting concessions as may be possible," said Lindeque.

Government has offered incentives in the form of discounts to promote black economic empowerment in the trophy hunting industry.

The Ministry said it viewed the response "in a very positive light", and wanted to allow for more consultation opportunities ahead of the auction.

Lindeque said the process might now include an additional step - that of providing the ministry with company profiles concerning empowerment and benefit-sharing arrangements prior to the auction.

But conservation groups are not in agreement on the plan to boost trophy hunting.

For the first time, black rhino will be among the animals that can be hunted.

After years of hard work to increase the rhino population in Namibia, the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) says it fears that hunting concessions in the Erongo and Kunene regions would negatively affect eco-tourism in these areas.

"The impact of hunting can outweigh short-term financial gains where climatic conditions result in low densities of all game.

Hunting creates little employment in the local area and sustainability is yet unproven," the organisation said.

Rhino are particularly sensitive to the sound of gunshots, which can cause them to run distances of up to 30 kilometres, often leaving their calves struggling to keep up.

The SRT said eco-tourism and hunting did not mix because the former was about "tranquility and wildlife, scenic beauty, peace and quiet in open spaces".

The MET views trophy hunting as an effective way of reducing wildlife populations by removing animals that are too old to reproduce.

But Johannes Haasbroek, a former professional hunter who now heads the Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) organisation, says this notion of trophy hunting is "a complete fallacy".

"When you hunt for a trophy, you look for the biggest and best animal you can find for your client. It is very likely to be an animal in his breeding prime. It has been proven that trophy hunting manipulates the genetic stock over time by eradicating the carriers of the largest horns and tusks," Haasbroek told The Namibian.

Haasbroek said a hunter would not be able to determine the breeding status of an animal at first glance, and there had been little research done on this aspect.

The EHRA says it has established that there are only about six elephant bulls that breed actively in the 15 000-square-kilometre area of the Ugab and Huab River systems.

The breeding cow population numbers about 60.

Both organisations said by allowing hunting in areas such as Hobatere, Palmwag and the Namib-Naukluft Park, tourists would only be able to experience wildlife as "dust on the horizon".

The Namibia Nature Foundation was not prepared to divulge its views on the hunting concessions to The Namibian.

It says it had already shared its views with the MET and would like these to remain a private discussion between them.

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