Prince Harry is encountering criticism in Namibia—is he a conservation hero, or a meddling rich kid with little knowledge of real life?
Prince Harry has been widely applauded by his cheerleaders in the West for dedicating three months of his life to working with conservation organizations in Africa.
But he is coming in for severe criticism by some in Namibia—including from government ministers and in the country’s press—who are less than impressed by the young royal’s involvement in their country’s affairs.
The country’s Minister For Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, is the latest to express reservations around the young royal’s visit to the country on a conservancy mission.
Shifeta has publicly warned Harry not to speak out against ‘trophy hunting’ of protected species such as rhinos and elephants (in May, it was reported that Texan Corey Knowlton had shot a black rhino in Namibia after paying $350,000 (£225,000) for a license at auction) and urged Harry not to turn his visit to the country into ‘a publicity stunt.’
Meanwhile, although some defended Harry’s trip, other influential Namibians spoken to by the Daily Beast were scathing about the involvement of the young royal in wildlife protection in the country, dismissing his efforts as the foreign adventure of a rich westerner who ‘has everything.’
Wonder Gochu, 44, news editor at The Namibian, the country’s biggest selling newspaper, told The Daily Beast, “I haven’t seen any sign of Prince Harry here. They say it’s a private visit and we are not even allowed to take his picture. Why should we fuss about him when so many people are living below the poverty line, living in shacks?
“Let us be honest: his royal highness is here for an adventure holiday. He or his visit will not save one single rhino. Sad but true.”
“This boy’s visit here will not change anything. People still go hungry, people who have no jobs will still have no jobs when he goes back. They will not even give a second thought about him being here or not being here.”
Did Gochu think Harry’s presence would have any impact on poaching?
“No, as long as there is a market for what the poachers are selling, Prince Harry could spend 10 or 20 years in the country and that would not make any difference. He should go to China, and campaign there, say, ‘Please don’t buy it.’
“How can hungry men care about whether a rhino or an elephant is killed? You are talking about somebody who has no job, who sleeps on an empty stomach. Do you really think he has time to think about what is happening in the jungle? Prince Harry has everything. Most people here don’t. A man who has no shelter, no food, his focus is only on what he can get to eat.”
As one newspaper columnist wrote in a piece addressed to Harry, “Seriously, what do you bring to this miserable party? Can you out-track the local trackers? I do not want to stitch anyone up with potential donors or sponsors. But let us be honest: his royal highness is here for an adventure holiday. He or his visit will not save one single rhino. Sad but true.”
Shifeta, in comments reported by the Namibia Sun, said, “We receive a lot of prominent people, but they are usually in their private capacity and they want to join in our conservation efforts and assist. We welcome this, but we do not want it to turn into a public relations exercise.”
More problematically for Prince Harry, the Minister seemed to suggest that trophy hunting of rhinos and elephants should be supported by Harry, saying that to stop trophy hunting would have severe implications for the country’s acclaimed system of ecological conservancies.
The practice of trophy hunting—where hunters shoot wild animals—has been attacked by The Tusk Trust, of which Harry is an active supporter.
But trophy hunting in 2013 generated US $2 million for the acclaimed Namibian conservancy system, in which locals benefit from the monetizing and marketing of nature. Money comes not only from the sale of licenses but also from the sale of bush meat from trophy hunting.
Shifeta said of trophy hunting, “This is completely within the framework of our laws.”
Namibian conservationist Peter Sander told The Daily Beast that he felt Harry’s presence in the country was “welcome,” saying, “It’s a good thing he is here because it raises awareness.”
Sander added that he supported properly organized trophy hunting, saying, “It plays a huge part in the economies of the conservancies. It definitely has a place. But it needs to be done selectively—for example shooting an old bull elephant—and with proper controls.”
In 2004 Harry shot a water buffalo in Argentina on a big-game hunt.
It might be best, however, if he resisted the temptation to shoot a rhino on this trip.