Source: https://www.namibian.com.na/78359/read/Nyae-Nyae-wins-conservation-award STEVE FELTON NAMIBIA'S oldest conservancy, Nyae Nyae, was awarded the prestigious Edmond Blanc prize at an event held at the Safari Court Hotel in Windhoek on Saturday. The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) awards the prize for outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation and game management. In the words of the CIC: “Only those game reserves, and game organisations that have had outstanding success in their work to conserve [the] natural environment, to protect free-roaming animals in the wild and to manage game according to principles of sustainability shall be eligible for the Edmond Blanc prize.” The prize was awarded to Nyae Nyae Conservancy and stakeholders, including professional hunter Stephan Jacobs of SMJ Safaris and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. It was presented to chief Tsamkxao ≠Oma, who explained traditional hunting methods to the modern trophy hunters gathered from around the world. “We hunt without noise,” he said. “In the past we would track an animal and then stay with it until the meat was finished. But this would chase other animals away, because of our smell.” Wishing to conserve and keep wildlife in the conservancy, the chief said they have created large hunting areas, away from the villages, to sustain wildlife for generations to come. Referring to the changes since the conservancy was formed in 1998, the chief said that hunting is now done according to quotas set by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism based upon game counts. Traditionally the San people only hunted what they needed to eat, said Tsamkxao ≠Oma, and the quota system also ensures that game is conserved. In motivating the prize for Nyae Nyae, Rolf Baldus, a German economist who has published widely on conservation issues, said Nyae Nyae, located in the so-called Bushmanland in the north-east of Namibia, covers an area of approximately 900 000 hectares of wilderness, which is rarely found in Africa today. “Sustainable hunting is one way to conserve and carefully develop [San] culture,” writes Baldus. “It promotes wildlife conservation with clear measurable results through sustainable use of wildlife,” and: “Through community involvement … it has combated wildlife crime and continues to do so.” Poaching in the area is at a very low level. Stephan Jacobs is the current professional hunter contracted by Nyae Nyae conservancy. In a brief history of conservation hunting in Nyae Nyae, he stated that in 1970 there were no elephants in the area. They first migrated from the Zambezi area in 1971, and when the legendary hunter Volker Grellmann obtained the first hunting concession in the area, there were 80-100 bull elephants in Nyae Nyae. Today there are between 1 500 and 2 000 elephants in the conservancy, according to Jacobs. The hunter went on to state that conservation hunting actively conserves wildlife, and that plains game and lion numbers have increased dramatically in Nyae Nyae. Modern hunting of game, including buffalo and a quota of nine elephants in 2019, is done with rifles, but tracking is still done on foot using the skills of San trackers who cover up to 30 kilometres a day. Employment of trackers is one of the benefits of conservation hunting. Others include the employment of conservancy rangers and cash benefits to what was one of the poorest communities in Namibia, said Jacobs. Almost all of the N$2 million paid out to conservancy members in each of the last two years comes from conservation hunting, which also pays for water holes for game. Meat for the community is also a vital benefit of sustainable hunting for a poor community, he said, with 30 tonnes being distributed. Namibia, in its presentation to the CITES convention later this year, will argue that the sustainable use of wildlife brings financial and social benefits to rural communities and conservation benefits to wildlife. In motivating the Edmond Blanc prize, Dr Baldus stated that Nyae Nyae “has followed strictly all Cites rules and fulfils fully the expectations of Cites that hunting protected species contributes to their conservation.” *Steve Felton works for Nacso and WWF in Namibia.