The Namibian (Windhoek)

31 May 2012

Namibia: Country One of the Greatest African Wildlife Recovery Stories

Photo: The Namibian
Namibia Elephant

FORTY-TWO per cent of Namibia's land is under conservation management. This makes Namibia one of the countries with the largest conservation area.

At independence in 1990, only 13 per cent of the land area in Namibia was under conservation management.

Namibia's 42 per cent is no mean feat considering that Belize has 36 per cent, Zambia 35 per cent, Botswana 30 per cent and South Africa 12 per cent under conservation.

The areas under conservation include national parks and protected areas, communal conservancies and freehold conservancies.

There are currently 71 gazetted communal conservancies in Namibia, covering over 18 per cent of the country. There are also 19 freehold conservancies, formed by commercial farmers grouping together as conservancy associations.

Namibia is also the only country where the elephant population grew by a third between 1995 and 2008.

Translocated black rhinos are expanding their range as Namibia is leading Africa in moving black rhino out of national parks into the safety of communal conservancies. The country also has the largest population of wild cheetah and the largest annual game count in the world takes place in Namibia.

It is also the only country in Africa with expanding free-roaming giraffe and lion populations.

The ranges and numbers of lion populations from the Caprivi wetlands, where the black-maned lions prey on the African buffalo, to the Skeleton Coast where documented numbers have risen from just 25 in 1995 to well over a hundred today, make Namibia one of the greatest African wildlife recovery stories ever told.

There are 42 established joint-venture lodges and campsites, which makes Namibia a world leader in developing a tourism product that contributes to conservation and community development.

The first four conservancies were formed in 1998 after legislation made it possible for communities to have the same rights over wildlife as commercial farmers, who were allowed to hunt on their farms.

For the first time, rural communities could generate income from conservancies through trophy hunting.

Conservancies are meant to protect wildlife and its habitat, so having rights over wild animals does not mean unlimited hunting.

Game guards from the community are employed by the conservancy to patrol and deter poachers. The guards also assist the Ministry of Environment and Tourism with the monitoring of the annual game counts. The ministry also sets the quotas for hunting to allow the wildlife populations to grow.

Conservancies have rights over tourism operators and investors who want to open lodges and the two parties enter into a joint partnership with the conservancy for the benefit of all. The conservancy shares in the income from the lodge and also benefits from job opportunities created from the joint ventures.

Namibians are invited to experience the conservation journey of the country at the annual Tourism Expo. Guides from different conservancies will be on hand in Hall M at the Windhoek Showgrounds to show visitors around and talk about their conservancy.

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