The Greatest Wildlife Recovery Story Ever Told:
How Conservation is Creating Prosperity and Stability in Rural Namibia
U.S. Congressional Briefing
Featuring Digu Naobeb. CEO of the Namibian Tourism Board, and speakers from WWF and the Safari Club International Foundation
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – 10:00 am -11:00 am
U.S. Capitol Building
Speech, as it was prepared. It was however presented with several tangents and twists…
Good morning, my name is Joe Hosmer, and I am delighted to speak on behalf of the hunter-conservationist community today. I serve as the president of Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) and am a lifelong hunter. I am proud to be able to join the Honorable Minister and Mr. Dillon to share the story of Namibian wildlife recovery and how international hunting has been central to developing sustainable income for rural communities. SCIF commends the success of wildlife management programs in Namibia, and we are working to apply them to other countries that are struggling to modernize their own wildlife conservation policies.
First, I would like to tell you a little bit about our Foundation. Safari Club International Foundation is the charitable arm of Safari Club International. SCIF’s missions include promoting and funding wildlife conservation, outdoor education, and humanitarian services. Currently, we have over 60 ongoing conservation research projects. Over the past decade, SCIF has contributed over $50 million to advance global wildlife conservation. SCIF has worked tirelessly to increase wildlife management capabilities throughout Southern and Eastern Africa through strategic partnerships with African nations and conservation NGOs. In Namibia, for instance, SCIF is working with the government to obtain the best science available regarding the population status of leopards.
Safari Club International Foundation has also awarded multiple grants to land conservancies in Southern Africa that serve as important reserves for black rhinoceros and other wildlife. Since 2008, an increase in rhino poaching has been reported in southern Africa and SCIF has responded by providing over $80,000 to fund rangers, aircraft, trail cameras, telemetry equipment and other tools to combat the increase in poaching. Collaborative efforts among conservation organizations and the hunting industry are using hunter-generated revenue to successfully prevent poaching. Ensuring that animals harvested lawfully do not enter the illegal trade and tarnish the reputation of legitimate conservationists is a major consideration of SCIF. Poachers and smugglers should not benefit from the dedicated work of conservationists by skimming the gains made after decades of investment in conservation.
The largest of SCIF’s programs in Africa is the African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF). SCIF hopes that this cooperative forum will help spread the Namibian successes in wildlife conservation to the rest of Africa. AWCF is an annual forum that convenes delegates from most of the sub-Saharan African governments for a week-long discussion on wildlife management, conservation, and hunting priorities. The forum provides an opportunity for these countries to come together to compare problems and develop common approaches to future management of their wildlife resources. Over fifty participants attended the 2011 AWCF in Swaziland. Contributors included wildlife professionals, regulatory officials, and representatives of the hunting industry. By providing the forum for wildlife professionals across Africa to discuss successful management approaches SCIF believes that best practices can be shared amongst partners and the success of sustainable-use hunting will spread across Africa.
Over the past decade, the AWCF annual meetings have included major themes in African wildlife management. Human-wildlife conflict, wildlife population management, predator-prey interactions, habitat use, hunting regulations, and anti-poaching campaigns have all been central to the Forum. Key topics at the most recent meeting included rhinoceros conservation, leopard population status, lion management. Attendees also heard reports on current policies and regulations for each country present.
One of the most critical issues addressed in the 2011 AWCF was the landmark agreement to organize and support the collection of current lion census data from all of the range state nations. The attending government entities agreed to fully cooperate to address the ambitious deadlines set for the CITES Periodic Review of the African lion. The Periodic Review will use the best science available to determine if lions are appropriately listed in the CITES Appendices.
Enhancing wildlife management in Africa is only part of the solution, and cannot succeed in a vacuum. The success of the sustainable wildlife conservation program hinges on the dedicated funding that international hunters provide to these communities. Hunting has funded the enhancement of many species around the world, including a long list we are all fond of here in North America (elk, white-tailed deer, wood duck, wild turkey, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bison and more). It is the license fees and taxes on hunting gear that fund conservation in the United States, and international hunters provide the same steady revenue stream to African communities.
International hunting has been one of the main economic engines in rural communities. In many countries of southern Africa, agrarian or pastoral economies cannot flourish, due to limited land suitable for agriculture or grazing. In these areas, regulated hunting has been a consistent form of revenue for local communities. To take better advantage of sustainable wildlife use, many governments have begun Community Based Natural Resources Programs. These programs, in essence, devolve power from the central government so that locally created community councils can regulate and manage wildlife in their areas. Their mission is to utilize wildlife so that it remains a sustainable resource.
These communal programs have been successful because they effectively create a financial incentive for the rural communities to actively conserve wildlife. Revenue retention rules ensure that money generated from sport hunting ends up in the hands of indigenous people. In the case of international hunting in southern Africa, communities in the most rural areas of countries reap the benefit of conserving wildlife through Community Based Natural Resource Programs.
Creating this incentive to coexist with wildlife has been a central reason why so many populations of species are now thriving. The growing population of white rhino has been one of the most notable success stories. Namibia has been the leader in this area with I believe zero rhino poaching in the last two years. It is not terribly surprising that in countries like Kenya, where wildlife utilization by indigenous people is extremely limited and where hunting does not exist, wildlife population levels are now low and in continuous decline. Hunting was banned in Kenya in1977 and this ban has resulted in an accelerated loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation (Baker 1997; Lewis & Jackson 2005).
SCIF’s sister organization, Safari Club International (SCI) recently held its annual Hunter’s Convention where over 2,200 outfitters came together and raised $16 million dollars, a substantial portion of which will contribute to international wildlife conservation. Many of these outfitters booked trips to Africa that will support these community based conservation programs, build value into these wildlife and support these rural economies.
I would like to leave you with just a few thoughts about how you can help. One way is to continue to fund programs such as Namibia’s LIFE program at high levels moving forward. The LIFE program is funded by USAID and has been central to building community based natural resource management in Namibia. Programs that promote sustainable-use conservation such as the LIFE program are not just aid, but an investment that helps build a self-sustaining rural economy while creating community incentives to protect these treasured species.
There Is yet another key component to the success of sustainable-use conservation where more work is needed — reducing regulatory burdens. Often times international hunters are faced with obstacles at the U.S. border. Sometimes it is a problem with bringing a favorite hunting rifle with them on their hunt. More frequently, it is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopping a hunter from bring their legally harvested animal back in to the U.S. These barriers discourage hunters from travelling, reduce the value of overseas wildlife and take much needed dollars out of rural African communities. It is vital that the United State modernize the border process for wildlife so that millions of dollars of African conservation dollars are not lost because of over-zealous wildlife inspectors and byzantine regulations. Over the 20th Century, hunters brought back the great herds of the United States through their funding of conservation. All we ask is that the U.S. government helps hunters do the same in Africa.