The hunting debate
Issue 3 (November 2008) This summer the Namibian Government issued permits for six bull elephants to be shot by trophy hunters on Kunene conservancies – three of the permits were for rare desert-adapted elephants. The decision was controversial. Each of the permits is worth N$88,000 to the poor rural villages that ‘own’ the elephants. However, the loss of these bulls may threaten the long-term viability of the herds involved. These deaths are in addition to a number of ‘problem’ elephants that were recently shot after they attacked village water points. Here is what some of Namibia’s top naturalists have said:


Dr Chris Brown is executive director of Namibia Nature Foundation
“The elephant population in North West Namibia is not on protected land and we have to work with the farmers to ensure that the problems the animals are causing do not outweigh the benefits. It would be great if Namibia was at a stage in its development where we could sit back and enjoy the aesthetics of our wildlife. But in a developing country with poor rural communities, it will take many years before we reach that stage.

“It is very much in the interests of conservation that farmers get maximum sustainable returns from wildlife. To achieve maximum returns farmers need to apply a suite of wildlife uses including tourism, trophy hunting, game meat production, own consumption of game meat and live capture for sale to game farms”.

Johannes Haasbroek is the operations director of Elephant-Human Relations Aid in Kunene.

Three of the permits were issued in the south Kunene region where, Mr Haasbroek believes, only three trophy bulls remain.

 “Younger post-adolescent bulls cause most problems at water points. These young delinquents are disciplined and taught by the older bulls, which also prevent them from breeding until they are responsible adults.

“Eradicating the older bulls could lead to social breakdown, and a massive loss of knowledge. This knowledge is needed to alleviate the pressure on resources (land and water). Misuse of resources will only lead to more conflict with humans, more pressure on Government and more elephants being shot. This domino effect can head them to extinction faster than we could ever believe.”

Garth Owen-Smith is co-director of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation in Namibia
“With the elephants in the arid west of the Kunene Region having doubled in number over the past twenty-six years, and their range having extended both northwards to the Hoarusib River and south to the Uchab River, it is ridiculous to suggest that their survival is threatened. However, that too many large bulls are being hunted is a valid concern. Selective killing of big tuskers by poachers in the 1970s and early 1980s, the shooting of bulls as problem animals and the number of trophies hunted south of the veterinary fence have all contributed to there now being a severe imbalance between adult bulls and cows.”

Dr Betsy Fox is a conservation scientist who has recently retired from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

She believes every elephant has a right to live regardless of its economic value. More scientifically, she says that high calf mortality among desert-adapted elephants, coupled with slow breeding, mean trophy hunting in the Kunene is not sustainable.

“I think MET officials who approved these quotas are not thinking in terms of the best conservation measures for the keystone species in the Kunene region, but are succumbing to pressure from conservancies to earn quick bucks.”

Dr Keith Leggett from the Namibian Elephant and Giraffe Trust uses GPS collars to track Kunene elephants.

“While hunting will not have a serious effect on the elephant population, the combination of elephant hunting and problem animal control might have a serious impact on male populations, especially in areas where there is little input from elephants leaving Etosha. MET statistics show that twelve elephants were shot during problem animal control in Kunene between September 2006 and September 2007. I was able to trace one of the bull’s movements and show that the amount of time he spent in the area where he was shot was less than 14% of his total time spent in the Kunene region. In my opinion this issue needs to be addressed more seriously than the question of professional hunting”.


< Previous   Next >


Safari Planner

Search The Site

Please enter your email address to sign up
What do you think?
What is your favourite desert animal?