(Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from opening remarks at the Namibia Professional Hunters Association during its 41st Annual General Meeting last month.)
The Address was given by The Honourable Uahekua Herunga MP, Minister of Environment and Tourism
Namibia is a pro-wildlife utilization country and our progressive national Constitution is the first in the world to formally enshrine the sustainable utilization of living natural resources.
We are a hunter friendly nation with a very proud hunting heritage, and our trophy hunting community is well respected by our government and fellow Namibians as an essential and integral part of Namibia’s wildlife conservation, tourism, agricultural and business sectors.
Statistics show that the introduction of trophy hunting here in the early 1960s was one of our country’s the most successful wildlife conservation initiatives – trophy hunting has since developed into an extremely lucrative form of land utilization as well as a most effective wildlife management tool.
However, for international hunters the prime draw cards are our excellent hunting professionals, high standards of ethics; interesting and varied hunting opportunities; quality, quantity and diversity of game species including the Big Five; the ease with which hunting rifles may be temporarily imported and our active and our well-respected national hunting association, NAPHA.
Namibia is firmly established as one of Africa’s most popular hunting and tourism destinations, and all reports indicate that 2014 has again been an excellent year.
The Namibian government and all of you committed to conservation, recognize the responsibilities the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has with respect to trophy importation as well as the positive role they play more widely in wildlife conservation.
We also recognize and appreciate their support for sustainable use as a critical and effective mechanism to assist wildlife populations and human communities worldwide. Furthermore, we understand the challenges they face, as all of us do, in balancing the differing perspectives in complex modern societies and in striving to do what is right in the face of intense criticism by anti-hunting lobbyists.
But what is most important is that our government recognizes the common purpose we share with the USFWS in conserving wildlife and ensuring this priceless world legacy is not lost to future generations. It is with these considerations in mind that we encourage and call upon the USFWS to issue the importation permit for the Black Rhino hunt auctioned earlier this year. The funds raised are vital to fund our battle against poaching which threatens this extraordinary and iconic animal.
We must act decisively for the Rhino; and to do so requires both purposeful commitments to practical solutions and financial resources to put such efforts to work on the ground.
Thus it is critical that the permit for importation be granted without unnecessary delay so that we may together initiate this important work. We have no time to lose.
The threat of poaching has continued to escalate while various many-faceted interventions are being implemented in Namibia. Poaching is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade.
My Ministry is working closely with wildlife experts, magistrates, prosecutors, lawyers, Police Officers, members of the Namibia Defense Force, Intelligence experts, Custom officials, Immigration officials and many other experts – we need to stop this illegal killing of our wildlife NOW.
There is no doubt that hunters spend more time on the ground interacting with, as well as supporting local communities, than any other group of tourists.
Over the past year we have addressed and resolved some issues regarding Leopard hunting tags. We agree that in-depth studies should be initiated soonest in order to determine predator numbers, which are reported to be on the dramatic increase throughout commercial as well as communal areas.
As unique as our landscapes and our people, so, too, are our Namibian hunting traditions.