He said if an option to ban the import and export of any trophies is taken, it will erode all the progress made in Namibia since Independence, particularly if more European countries follow suit.
“We recognise that introducing any option related to imports and exports of hunting trophies is fully within the sovereign right of these countries. We further understand that they intend to protect animal species that are hunted in Namibia and other African countries, an intention that is shared by the Namibian Government,” Shifeta remarked.
This comes as the minister said he had noted some initiatives in process to ban the import of trophies into the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Finland.“Before these developments, France and the Netherlands also implemented restrictions and prohibitions on the importation of certain hunting trophies,” he said.
However, the tourism minister maintained that the Namibian conservation model, which has received international acclaim, is based on the premise that people living with wildlife are its rightful custodians.
Furthermore, European hunters account for over half of the total hunting revenue in Namibia.
He also added that without a suitable alternative that fully replaces the income, employment, and protein provided by conservation hunting in Namibia, “both our people and wildlife will suffer”. “Namibia can demonstrate that trophy hunting positively contributes to wildlife conservation and the rural economy, which should provide sufficient grounds for approving trophy imports from our country. We, therefore, encourage all countries that imports trophies from Namibia to adopt a targeted and measured approach,” the minister said.
“Our legislation and policies thus provide for rural communities and private landowners to manage their wildlife populations sustainably and derive financial and other benefits from these natural resources. This system is supported by the Ministry, which is committed to conserving wildlife and natural habitat for current and future generations,” he added.
Today, over 90% of our wildlife population occurs on private and communal lands and we have more wildlife now than at any time in the last 100 years, having reversed losses suffered during the colonial and apartheid eras, he revealed.
According to him, as of 2018, an estimated 230,000 communal area residents, which is 9% of Namibia’s total population, were members of communal conservancies, which have created jobs for nearly 5,000 people. He said these conservancies are responsible for managing wildlife on 169,756 square kilometres of land, which is 21% of Namibia and over two-thirds the size of the UK.
He, therefore, urged and appealed to the said countries not to opt for the route of any bans but rather continue to apply current controls based on internationally agreed rules. “While we understand that trophy hunting might not always contribute to rural development and conservation in all countries as it does in Namibia, any ban on trophy import and export, whether selective or not would effectively undermine the Namibian people and our successful conservation model,” he pointed out.
According to the minister, in 2019, a total of 5001 trophy hunters visited Namibia for hunting. German tourists or hunters were the highest with a total of 1792 (36%), followed by USA with 934 (19%), Austria 378 (7%), Hungary 210 (4%), France 196 (4%), Sweden 189 (4%), Spain 155 (3%), Denmark 103 (2%), Russia (2%), Australia 70 (1%). Other countries were to a combined number of 888 (18%) hunters.
Meanwhile, he said MEFT has the mandate to manage and protect wildlife in State-owned National Parks and Nature Reserves. “The Ministry is at the forefront of the government’s anti-poaching efforts and plays a vital role in supporting communal conservancies and managing the rhino custodianship programme,” he added.
“These efforts are partly funded through the Game Product Trust Fund (GPTF), a statutory body created by an Act of Parliament, which receives revenue from hunting and live wildlife sales. Data from 2020 – 2021 reveal that GPTF spent about Euro 1,2 million on conservation programmes, 73% of which was dedicated to anti-poaching and other wildlife management activities such as rhino conservation and Protected Area Management,” Shifeta said, adding that conservation hunting is, therefore, an important part of our integrated sustainable development and conservation strategy.