Address KUD to PHASA AGM Panel Discussion

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16.11.2015

Dear Executive Committee of PHASA, PHASA Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the invitation to this panel discussion „to share information with you regarding any changes to the hunting industry in Namibia, achievements of the past year and challenges that we faced“. I feel honoured to speak in front of you here today.

While it may have nothing to do with the actual topic, in starting I, however, would like to mention that it was the legendary Kruger Park elephant bull Mafunyane, which actually lured me onto the elephant trail. Before having read about Mafunyane and seen pictures of that magnificent bull in the Custos Magazine as a teenager, I was rather indifferent about elephant hunting. I thus used the opportunity while I was in South Africa to, over the weekend, visit Letaba Camp in Kruger Park. I have to say that I was truly moved to stand in front of the collection of great ivory in the Elephant Hall at Letaba and to be able to even touch the tusks of Mafunyane.

And I also have to admit that I really was positively surprized by my visit to the Park. I have imagined it to be much more tame and commercialized, much more crowded and with an animal in front of and behind every bush. But it is a truly great stretch of wilderness. When my eyes roamed across the undulating rows of Mopaneveld around Letaba, dimming down towards the blue lines of the distant Lebombo Hills, I really was touched, longing back for my days on the elephant trail.
I say all this because perhaps many of us may have misconceptions about South Africa – I will come back to this.

Regarding changes in Namibia I briefly would like to mention that we have restructured the NAPHA Office, having employed Mrs Tanja Dahl as our new CEO and concentrated largely on updating administrative matters as to function more professional and more cost effective. The poaching crisis of course also has its effects in Namibia and we hunters as usual are on the forefront of those who combat poaching. NAPHA has organized an Anti-poaching Fundraising Dinner in September, during which 2,7 million N$ was raised.

This mentioned I do not want to waste any more time with internal matters, which very much could be described as “business as usual”. Because – as you all know – there have been greatly concerning challenges during this year, which have taken a course and reached proportions, which may threaten the very continuation of trophy hunting itself. The release of the “blood lions” film, which has created the hotbed for emotional outbursts and the subsequent international hype around the lion Cecil has led to a situation, where trophy hunting in particular can be targeted and challenged by anti hunting activist with massive support by the general public to an extend, which makes it difficult for decision makers in many fields to ignore and to remain rational. The trophy transportation ban by a large number of airlines is just one example.

Namibia actually came off quite well during this turmoil. Almost every international advocate of hunting, in searching for arguments in its defence, referred to Namibia as an excellent example of how the principle of sustainable use of natural resources indeed can serve as a very valuable conservation tool.
Namibia’s hunting industry is seen to be well structured and regulated, largely free of corruption and – importantly – free of unacceptable abuse of wild animals. Please do not understand me wrongly; I do not want to brag here and claim that Namibia is a shining example of how everything could be done. Far from it. We are well aware that there are many shortcomings. But we are thankful that we could at least serve in being of use to counter some of the negative uproar against hunting.
And this largely was only due to our Communal Conservancy Programme, which serves as a very successful example of benefit sharing with rural communities.

Namibia is in the fortunate position that large tracts of wilderness in the northern communal areas are incorporated in a very successful conservation programme, through which benefits of hunting really trickle down to the local communities. It proves that the principle of “Sustainable Use” really and truly supports conservation of intact habitats and the wildlife therein. As long as conducted within ethical and legal parameters, there in fact is very little argument against sustainable hunting.

Only because of this our politicians are in a position to prominently speak up for hunting, without exposing themselves to massive criticism. The Namibian Minister if Environment and Tourism has announced very prominently that a closure of hunting would mean the end of our Communal Conservancy Programme. This message certainly gets across, because all the wildlife in the famous Kaokoveld, so well liked by tourists, depends on this programme and much of the wildlife in Caprivi, now Zambezi Region, is outside of National Parks and under this programme as well. Our President even considered it adequate to refer to the excellent hunting possibilities in Namibia during his seven-minute talk in front of the UN. This is quite something and we are truly proud and thankful.

But this also places a huge responsibility on us and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has urged us to “please not disappoint the politicians” and keep the industry clean and moreover assure that a more representative part of the Namibian people really benefit from the hunting sector.
We are currently busy exploring possibilities to speed up the process of the inauguration of disadvantaged Namibians in responsible positions of the hunting industry. We consider this issue to be of paramount importance for the long-term survival of the hunting industry. NAPHA has organized a so-called “ Hunting Operator Course”, however, the financial hurdle, which starters in the industry have to overcome, seems to be a serious deterrent and we currently consider suggesting some changes in the regulations.

The second matter, namely keeping the industry clean, is much more complex and difficult to tackle. It is twofold, because there is the matter of individual misconduct and there is the matter of practises, which are considered “unacceptable” by the majority of the general public and seriously harm the image of trophy hunting.
Fanatics at all times needed the hotbed of unhealthy circumstances for their campaigns. If there is no hotbed for the fanatics to whip up emotions, individual misconduct will remain what it is: Personal offences which occur in all spheres of human activity and which can and should be punished adequately.

The Cecil Hype was only possible because of the existence of the “hotbed” of “canned or captive bred lion hunting”. We have by no means seen the end of the PR Campaign related to the “Blood Lions Film” and it will have far-reaching consequences for trophy hunting in the entire sub-region. I do not want to elaborate any more on this. Captive lion breeding is prohibited in Namibia; suffice in stating that should the Namibian hunting community ever consider “captive bred lion shooting” acceptable practice, I personally will hang up my rifles.

But we face a new, huge threat in Namibia.
The Scientific Data Committee of NAPHA in 2004 came to the conclusion that the artificial breeding of colour variants of wild animals should not be allowed. In 20012 the NAPHA members voted in favour of a clear stance of the Association against the selective artificial breeding of wild animals for the hunting industry.

The selective artificial breeding for outsized horn growth and colour variants, however, at the moment – because of its huge financial lure – poses a severe risk to the positive image the Namibian Hunting Industry still enjoys.

There are more than enough statements by scientists and conservation institutions, like for example the Antelope Specialist Group of the IUCN, stating that the artificial breeding of wild animals for novel coat colours or outsized horn growth does not serve to support the conservation of the species. The similarities with captive lion breeding are obvious and if we have not learned from the lion situation and the Cecil hype – which after all has put us in the present crisis – we don’t deserve any better.

We trophy hunters try to defend our doing by claiming that killing is not what motivates us, but rather the enjoyment of an original doing and of participating in nature and that the trophies we take home front and foremost serve to remind us of treasured moments we experienced out in nature. The selective breeding of wild animals for outsized horn growth reduces our argument to the point of absurdity and pulls from underneath our feet the very valid justification for our doing, reducing it to mere trophy collecting for ego boosting motives.

The issue was discussed at the recent AWCF Conference and a representative of the Breeders Association there stated in defence and as justification of artificial breeding that there are no more wild places left in South Africa. I cannot speak for South Africa, but I was assured by people in the know that there still is wild and original country in South Africa. To experience unspoiled African wilderness after all is what foreign trophy hunters want and this kind of statement certainly does not help to rectify misconceptions which might exist.

For Namibia, however, I strongly reject this argument. There are vast tracts of unspoiled wild country in Namibia, not only, but mainly in the Communal Conservancies, which were so important in the defence of hunting during the Cecil hype. The breeding of colour variants like for example black-, moonshadow-, blacktailed-, or whatever Impala, dilutes the unique status and the value of natural subspecies like our black faced impala, or for that matter Kafue lechwe and others and thus undermines the protection of unique subspecies. The line-breeding of springbok for outsized trophies, often using specimens captured under dubious circumstances in our communal areas, reduces the unique status and the value of our Damaraland springbok, thereby robbing our Communal Conservancies of the advantage of an unique natural asset.

The representative of the Breeders Association also justified artificial breeding as at least being better than cattle breeding. After all cattle originate from line breeding with the wild ancestors of cattle, which subsequently where exterminated. Where are we heading for?
Line breeding will be seen as domestication of wild animals. The inevitable habituation of wild animals during the process, which are bred and released to be shot, will create the hotbed for the next Blood Lion/Cecil Type of uproar and ultimately will be the final nail in the coffin lid of trophy hunting. This practise will place a huge question mark over the true motives of trophy hunters.
The lure of short-term financial gain, of a “quick buck”, is very strong in this issue and in my opinion the true motive. We feel that Government needs to come in here to regulate the matter based on scientific consideration of its conservation value only and in the best long-term interest of hunting.
It is not the lucrative side of an industry that is at stake – it is hunting as such that is at stake. We hunters should be fully aware of this. This is why I place so much emphasis on the matter. We just cannot afford another uproar.

During the Country Reports at the AWCF Conference – and I would like to use this opportunity to again thank the SCI Foundation for organising this very important forum –, hunting’s value for conservation was repeatedly portrayed as opposed to that of Eco Tourism.
I think it is high time to rightly and strongly claim that hunting is part and the purest and original form of Eco Tourism. After all the laws of hunter and hunted govern nature above everything else. Hunting is the fundamental school of live. There are no factual arguments against this. But we can no longer afford practises, which easily can be exposed by anti-hunting fanatics as not contributing to the protection of natural habitats and the wildlife therein.
All that is needed is a little shift in mind-set and people who see the bigger picture beyond their personal interests.

These where the issues from Namibia which – as I was requested – I consider important to keep the members and government officials informed of about developments in neighbouring countries and the trends in the hunting industry as a whole.

I would like to thank Hermann and Adri for their kind hospitality and assisting me in visiting Kruger Park. This is much appreciated.

I spent three days at Letaba, visiting the Elephant Hall repeatedly every day, caressing the ivory of those great bulls with my hands, standing a little to the rear, a few steps away, of the mounted skull and the tusks of Mandleve, imagining in absolute awe that bull majestically stepping past me, swinging his incredible tusks to either side with every step.
When I left one evening the warden, in closing the door after me, said: “ See youtomorrow – I can see you love the place”.

Yes, the place touched me deeply, because I once again could strongly feel that what is at stake are the wild places and unspoiled natural splendour – things, which are irreplaceable and which man can never create any substitute for, nor breed.
We hunters need to stand up and be counted now, tomorrow it can be too late.

I wish you well and hope that you have a successful meeting.
Thank you for listening.



Source: Namibia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA)
 

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