What a moment of celebration! At the occasion of the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) has honoured Namibia with the prestigious CIC Markhor Award. The Ceremony took place during the high-level segment of the Conference, which saw the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the Namibian Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations (NACSO) jointly receive the award for their outstanding success in wildlife conservation.
Her Excellency, Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism of the Republic of Namibia, Madame Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Madame Maxi Louis from NACSO received the award on behalf of the two institutions and its members. The award was handed over by the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, His Excellency, Dr. Braulio Dias, together with Tamás Marghescu, Director General of the CIC.
“It is not every day that we hear about success stories in the field of nature and wildlife conservation. As such, Namibia should serve as a prime example in terms of its innovative approaches to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, in particular its wildlife. Sustainable hunting serves as a means to alleviate poverty and promote rural development,” said Bernard Lozé, President of the CIC.
The CIC Markhor Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding conservation performance by personalities, private and government institutions, enterprises, or conservation projects that link the conservation of biodiversity and human livelihoods through the application of the principles of sustainable use, in particular hunting, as part of wildlife and ecosystem management.
Tamás Marghescu, CIC Director General said in his introduction to the award ceremony: “In naming the winner of the 2012 CIC Markhor Award you will see that there is a very important commonality between the three prize winners of 2008, 2010 and 2012. This commonality was not a necessary requirement in order to be selected, it just happened to be a commonality and might as well be the recipe for success: it is the empowerment of the local human population to look after and to care for their own natural resources.”
The communal conservancies programme in Namibia, which began with 4 areas in 1998, now includes 76, covering almost 19 per cent of the country. Coupled with the creation of new conservancies, many species have seen their numbers increase. In the northwest Kunene Region, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra numbers have grown from approximately 1 000 in 1982 to about 27 000 today.
During the same period, estimates show that the population of the desert-adapted elephants more than quadrupled, from around 150 individuals in 1982 to 750 today. Lions in Kunene have also expanded both in range and numbers. Added to this, Namibia has the largest black rhino population in the world. “We are proud that our success story has even led to a replication of our wildlife conservation approach in many other countries,” said H.E. the Namibian Minister for Environment and Tourism at the award ceremony.
The key to this success and consequently the justification for the CIC Markhor Award is the Namibian wildlife policy, which gives the necessary leeway to the private sector including the rural communities and facilitates the sustainable use of wildlife. A game management plan is in place in the country that sees game harvested either for trophy hunting, live capture and sale, or for the distribution of meat.
Thanking the CIC for establishing and managing its Markhor Prize and highlighting that sustainable use is the second pillar of the CBD, the executive secretary, Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, pointed out in the Laudation of the prize winners that “income from wildlife related activities in conservancies generates employment, enriches incomes of individual community members and is used for investments in communal education and health care facilities and services. Importantly, it also provides the financing of an insurance scheme for losses suffered from human-wildlife conflicts.”
Wildlife has become a valuable asset for locals to conserve and therefore provides a strong catalyst for the recovery of wildlife in the Communal areas of Namibia. This in turn has meant poaching is now more and more considered socially unacceptable.
While there is increasing evidence that globally and in particular in Africa the wildlife is often declining, the Namibian example shows that this is not a law of nature. Good wildlife management and the creation of incentives by sustainable hunting can prevent this. Since Namibia has a suitable legislation and favourable policies, wildlife numbers have grown exponentially – on private land and in communal conservancies alike. This is reminiscent of the ‘Markhor’, a mountain goat species once threatened with extinction; the population has multiplied in recent years through the trophy hunting of the species.
Namibia has shown us, once again, that the empowerment of local human populations to look after and care for their own natural resources is conducive to the recovery of wildlife numbers and their conservation for generations to come!