HUAP Trust supports Anti-Poaching Efforts
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January 11, 2019

Hunting is part of a Successful Conservation Model

Message from the president of NAPHA, Danene van der Westhuyzen.

The Namibia Professional Hunting Association marked 45 years of existence in 2018, while this HuntiNamibia issue celebrates the magazine’s 20 years in circulation. It is an achievement to be proud of. I know of no other African hunting association or hunting magazine that has reached such a significant milestone. In human terms, turning 20 puts you on the threshold of adulthood. No birthday has ever left me feeling different than the day before, but I remember my 21st birthday installing a sense of “freedom” in me. Though it also came with more responsibilities and choices to be made.

NAPHA’s milestone is important because it speaks of our history, reminds us why we live the way we do and why we are where we are. It also reminds us to learn from mistakes and strive to become better. It helps us to understand how people and societies behave. The past causes the present, and thus the future. Furthermore, history contributes to moral understanding, but more importantly, it shapes our identity.

Namibia’s history includes a broad repertoire of skills and interests, cultivated over years of evolution, and the concurrent shaping of culture. Hunting is an indelible part of our history and has its place in teaching us who we are. It provides us with an expansive sense of what it means to be a human being.

In Namibia, hunting is an integral part of a successful conservation model which benefits communities, wildlife and natural ecosystems. It is an indisputable fact that it provides the necessary economic incentive to conserve our wilderness areas and to justify them against the pressures of alternative use like agriculture and livestock keeping. Twenty years ago Namibia’s total population was 1.655 million people, with a density of 2.01 per square km. Today, our population stands at 2.587 million people with a projected 3.686 million people by 2038.
Namibia is a country that still offers the marvellous wide open spaces, habitats for all species to roam freely. But more importantly, it has more than enough proven its conservation efforts for all game species through responsible hunting.

Why is it then that the hunting community is facing such extreme pressure globally and on all fronts?

NAPHA, as well as our Ministry of Environment and Tourism, has demonstrated abundantly and with ample merit that conservation through hunting WORKS!

Nevertheless, we are faced with international bans on trophy imports, airline bans and charges on transporting hunting rifles and trophies, extreme social media uproar and aggressive anti-hunting campaigns to the extent of identifying hunters and sending them insulting hate mail and even death threats. The anti-hunting community likes to deceive the world and blames the decline in African wildlife numbers seen in other countries on hunting, but refuses to distinguish between legal hunting and poaching. The anti-hunting proponents don’t seem to want to understand that the
real Armageddon for wildlife in Africa is the population explosion and the concurrent loss of wildlife habitat. Not to mention the over-exploitation and growing environmental footprint from over-tourism. An increase in asphalt roads, electricity lines, water usage, mountains of garbage and a never decreasing list of requirements and needs to be met for the tourist wanting to observe game from already worn-out gravel roads. By contrast, one hunter seeks nothing more than unspoiled open landscapes, and wild animals unaffected by humans. Such a hunter brings the same amount of revenue into our country as roughly 20 tourists.

The knife in the back of us hunters are a handful of uninformed people in Namibia who run anti-hunting campaigns, who rave on social media about hunters who share photos of animals that have been hunted, who post ugly comments on NAPHA because of our leopard census project, who crucify our Ministry of Environment and Tourism for moving lion to bigger and more protected habitats, and for granting licenses for problem animals because of human-wildlife conflict. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

Hunters do not merely hunt, they are also nature lovers who strive for sustainable and ethical hunting methods that contribute to conservation strategies. NAPHA members operate responsibly within the framework of the law, within the ethics of our profession and our code of conduct, and with the aim to protect wildlife and its habitats from modern society. I cannot even imagine the cost of reclaiming and restocking a formerly pristine wilderness area after it has been totally destroyed by poaching, overgrazing, timber cutting and over-tourism. In principle, any system that is self-serving is also self- motivating and produces the best results. No business person worth their salt is stupid enough to neglect the resource on which they depend.

NAPHA members play a leading role in conservation. We invest in and conduct studies and scientific assessments, and as science progresses, our members are the final implementers. However, many tend to ignore our local knowledge, which is vital for conservation.

Who are the culprits when it comes to conservation? Who are the senseless killers?
Is it those who oppose hunting or is it the poacher that kills wildlife out of poverty?
Is it me who selectively hunts old males, thereby raising money to protect all the wildlife and their habitat, or those who publish wrong information or who are raising millions of dollars to misinform the public and demonise hunting? A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it is accepted by the majority. Proffering baseless assertions as truth is not only immoral and unethical, it also undermines the stability of our democratic society. Reliable information is the bedrock of any institution, be it science, government or private enterprise. If our citizens cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction, then the entire project of civilisation turns to dust. Mainstream media outlets also ought to have a better understanding of their responsibility to the public and should refuse to signal- boost these kinds of outright lies.

With all of these onslaughts going on, our wildlife has never been more vulnerable, and our hunting community has never been more financially weak and desperate. But I am convinced that if you want to save something – your soul, your heart, your relationships, your marriage, your family, your country or the world – you stand up and fight. No excuses, no detours, no debates, no patience, you stand up and say, enough is enough! And this is what we will do.

One of my favourite antelopes is the gemsbok (Oryx gazella). This large and beautiful Namibian antelope has a striking appearance with its distinct colouration and long spear-like horns. But its unique adaptation to harsh conditions, where scarce water and intense heat are the norm, sets it apart from the others. The gemsbok was chosen as Namibia’s national animal because of its courage, elegance and pride; the national coat of arms bears the image of this unmistakable desert dweller. It is Namibia’s most formidable swordsman, and so are we, the hunters – especially the ones with the NAPHA logo on their website.

The message from the president of NAPHA was published in the 2019 edition of HuntiNamibia.