Kai-Uwe Denker – NAPHA President 2015August 23, 2017
Kai-Uwe Denker – NAPHA President 2017August 24, 2017
by Kai-Uwe Denker
n the early 1970s individuals and institutions that truly cared for conservation had to realize that a ban on hunting – which they themselves had often called for – did not deliver the expected results in protecting endangered species. Back then, such considerations did not even include Africa but focused on the decline of animal species which had become endangered in Europe and North America due to increasing industrialisation and expanding agriculture. In order to protect those species a ban on hunting had been demanded. Extensive research into the matter revealed that rather than hunting, the destruction of habitats and environmental pollution were the reasons for the plight of many animal species. As a result of these findings the principle of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources was introduced. The concept was implemented with particular success in Africa where the destruction of natural habitats – and with it the decline of wildlife – caused by population explosion and industrial development had only just begun. Through this concept it was possible despite massive habitat losses to stem the decline of big game, which had well-nigh disappeared in Europe and North America.
Namibia in particular became a classic example of successful nature conservation strategies.
Developments in 2015, however, left people with realistic attitudes to nature as well as institutions which are truly involved in successful nature conservation flabbergasted. Driven by ideological pigheadedness, certain interest groups are determined to clamp down on hunting by any means – even though our conservation concept has proven successful and despite the absence of a workable alternative.
Take the case of Cecil, the lion, where hunting regulations seem to have been violated. Because of the various aspects of this hunt, people who strive for mutual respect were able to relate, if not to the scale of the worldwide outcry itself, to the indignation as such. From a purely factual point of view the death of a thirteen-year-old lion is of no consequence in the wild whatsoever – in one way or other his life is about to end.
But with the new uproar over the completely legal hunting of a big old elephant of outstanding tusk size in Zimbabwe, the anti-hunting activists finally showed their true face. They flatly announced that they do not care whether the hunt was legal and that they would instigate another mass protest on the social media.
“All of us, not only hunters, are called upon to act responsibly.”
This development is frightening because it calls to mind the insight of Socrates, the philosopher, who posed the question: “Can it not generally be observed that in numbers people are more foolish, more outrageous and crueler than as individuals and one for one?” Considering the uproar against hunting in the social media you certainly cannot help to be reminded of the philosopher’s words. Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, declared that to shut down hunting would spell the end of the successful Communal Conservancy Program and the end of conservation outside of national parks in Namibia. This seems to fall on deaf ears as far as the animal rightists are concerned. Way back then Socrates also came to realise: “No wonder that there is chaos, where thinking is absent and the uninformed mass decides precipitately, to later regret in despair.” Socrates was executed. At times one has to wonder whether humanity will ever learn.
Dreaming of really outstanding trophies is a huge motivation for hunters. The opportunity to hunt in an area where such trophies can be bagged gives a high market value to hunting concessions. The aspiration to be able to offer international clients long-term prospects of bagging outstanding trophies creates incentives for those responsible for the management of hunting concessions to use their game conservatively and future-orientated, to allow fine animals with exceptional trophies to grow old – all this to the best of the game populations and the local communities. Namibia has set a very positive example in implementing this principle. The uproar over the legal hunting of a very big old elephant reduces the principle of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources to a point of absurdity. Any rational argument seems futile in the light of the current hysteria on the social media. One should keep the insights and the fate of Socrates in mind.
At this point, however, we would like to extend congratulations to our colleagues in Zimbabwe. There are not many African countries left where hundred pounders still roam even outside the national parks and where lions reach an age of thirteen years. Irrespective of circumstances these facts as such are evidence of good wildlife management and sensible, sustainable offtake.
During the turmoil surrounding Cecil, Namibia often proved as solid as a rock when the principle of sustainable use had to be defended with factual arguments. Just about every international advocate, who expressed an opinion on the matter, had to admit that Namibia is a textbook example of meaningful nature conservation. Regarding the Principle of Sustainable Use, Namibia is seen as well-structured and largely free of corruption and greed-driven abuse of wild animals. NAPHA certainly has contributed its share to this and we are proud of that.
NAPHA will continue to stand up for the principles of responsible, fair chase hunting. We are aware of our responsibilities towards the reputation of Namibia and in respect of nature conservation. We would be glad if the general public would enter into a constructive dialogue with the hunting fraternity on the matter we all carry close to our heart: the protection of the magnificent nature and the wild animals of our country.
May we be spared the chaos which according to Socrates appears “…where thinking is absent and the uninformed mass decides precipitately, to later regret in despair”. Thanks to the Principle of Sustainable Use of Natural Resources there are still vast unspoiled landscapes in Namibia and representatives of all the grand African big game species.
This article was first published in the HuntiNamibia 2016 issue.