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Trophy Hunting in Namibia from the 1960s to the Present Day
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by Marina Lamprecht a.k.a. Gary     Last updated: 2014-08-10 20:01:03

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Hunting is part and parcel of Africa, the land where Mankind began. It is built into the life of our continent and the spirit of our people. Namibia is emphatically a pro-wildlife and 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 know that it is essential to utilize this land effectively for our people and our wildlife, and our hands-on experience has shown that the most beneficial and sustainable form of rural land utilization is, indeed, trophy hunting.

We also recognize that as we take on the many challenges of our time in Africa, including poverty, education and land reform, our focus increasingly must be on the most effective utilization of land for the direct benefit of human beings.

In political terms, wildlife is not yet considered agriculture, but at our family's as well as other Namibia game farmers’ vast private lands, our game animals most certainly are products of the land. In Namibia traditional agriculture once focused on domestic stock such as cattle, sheep and goats, and wild game was shot indiscriminately. This attitude is now almost completely outmoded in Namibia.

Trophy hunting began in Namibia in the early 60s, as a sideline to traditional agriculture, in areas where game such as springbuck, oryx, kudu and warthog were plentiful. This nascent industry was mainly based on the free-market system and began with an absolute minimum of government interference. It has grown steadily ever since, and has, inevitably and appropriately, come under a degree of government supervision. Recent statistics show that trophy hunting generates 2.3%% of Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product. Note that this does not include secondary goods and services such as airfares, shoulder accommodations and meals, game-park fees, car rentals, shopping and so on, which would approximately double this figure. Trophy hunting has steadily shown an annual growth of 12%%, which considerably outpaces the goal of 7%% annual growth that was set by “Government in Vision 2030,” a white paper on economic development in Namibia.

This success has been based on devolving rights over wildlife to freehold and communal area landholders. By giving landholders rights to use wildlife and benefit from it, government has provided incentives for conservation. This has resulted in the fact that 80%% of wildlife is now found outside of protected areas, and wildlife is increasing on communal land. A strong wildlife industry has been created that, linked to tourism, is a major contributor to the national economy. Income and other benefits such as jobs and training linked to wildlife and tourism in communal area conservancies are contributing to combating poverty.

Our wildlife is a natural resource, which, if managed properly through game ranching and utilized sustainably through fee-based trophy hunting, has the potential to develop into one of our country’s most valuable renewable assets. We are a nation with a proud hunting heritage, and our trophy-hunting sector is well respected by our government and fellow Namibians as an essential and integral part of Namibia’s conservation, tourism, farming and business industries.

Early days

In the 1960s, when trophy hunting was just beginning in South West Africa, game ranching was unknown in our country. In those days wild animals were seen to be in direct competition with domestic stock for grazing and water, and therefore a liability for a stock farmer.

Legendary Professional Hunter, Basie Maartens, is generally regarded as the first licensed PH, as he guided hunting safaris in SWA/Namibia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa as early as 1959.

When foot and mouth disease broke out on commercial farmland in the early 60s, and therefore an embargo on the trade of domestic stock was imposed, pioneer and innovative farmers Edgar and Marga Vaatz diversified their farming activities and established SWA/Namibia’s first guest and hunting farm, Düsternbrook. Prior to that the concept of hosting paying guests on farms or for a hunting safari was an East African tradition, totally foreign in our country. The initial daily rate charged at Düsternbrook was R 3.00, and the trophy fee for a kudu was R 30.00.

Marga Vaatz, a truly extraordinary lady, went on to initiate many social upliftment programmes on her farm, which I firmly believe are the inspiration behind a number of the current worthwhile ventures in farming areas throughout Namibia.

Volker and Anke Grellmann’s ANVO Safaris was founded in 1968, and then registered with SWA Nature Conservation in 1970. As a schoolgirl in Windhoek at the time, I clearly remember how intrigued I was by the adventure and romance of safari life, which this beautiful, social ‘it couple’ of SWA’s new venture represented. ANVO initially focused on hunting on commercial stock farms, later expanding to big game concessions in Damaraland, Bushmanland, the Kavongo and Western Caprivi.

So, by the late ’60s, farmers realized that game indeed had value, and increasingly thereafter our wild animals came to be seen as an asset. Since the mid-1970s the numbers of wild animals on private land has increased dramatically. As our American friends would say, “If it pays, it stays.”

My husband, Joof Lamprecht, qualified as a PH in the late 70s. When Joof and I started our safari company, Hunters Namibia Safaris, in the mid 80s I still remember the exclamations of disbelief from friends and family. When we bought an established cattle ranch in eastern Namibia (where we are still based) and started tearing down the domestic stock infrastructure in order to return the land to its natural state, many of our neighbours, all of whom were cattle ranchers, quite literally stood at the fences rubbing their hands in anticipation of the day that we would give up and sell out to them. Well, over the years we have in fact bought more and more land, much of which belonged to those very neighbours. Through sound game management due to sustainable hunting practices we now have vast herds of more than 30 species of game, and have been able to create such a perfect ecosystem that species such as hyena (both brown and spotted) as well as wild dog, which have not been seen in the area for decades, have moved back here.

Namibia has a dual economy. On the one hand, we have a modern, well-organized and efficient commercial segment; and on the other, a less well-structured communal portion, in which our tribal peoples mainly rely on subsistence agriculture. The communal, or tribal, subsistence sector only recognized the value of sustainable utilization of wildlife after Namibia’s independence in 1990. This was mainly because until then local communities had no decisive rights over game and thus no interest in it. Although commercial farmers were granted conditional ownership of game on their lands during the 1960s, the rural people of the communal areas only received utilization rights through the Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996, which makes provision for communal conservancies.

Experience in Namibia and elsewhere has repeatedly shown that the value of wildlife on both private and communal land can be greatly increased through wildlife-based commerce such as trophy hunting and tourism, even at much lower levels of stocking and utilization.

In Namibia, the greatest portions of revenue from game-ranching ventures derive from trophy hunting, live animal sales and tourism, not the sale of venison, and overall the potential return from wildlife far exceeds that of cattle. Once farmers and local communities realized that their game offered so much more than meat value, they were less likely to engage in uncontrolled hunting and more likely to become conservation-conscious. The next step is to understand that the only way to ensure the long-term survival of wildlife is to use the game wisely for the benefit of man.

Quantitatively and qualitatively, the results of the past five decades show that trophy hunting has been one of the most successful wildlife conservation initiatives in Namibia. Trophy hunting has developed into an extremely lucrative form of land use as well as a most effective wildlife management tool. Thus vast tracts of farmland have been bought up and consolidated by hunting operators, who then remove miles of stock fences and other infrastructure in order to restore wildlife habitat. The result is game ranches where wild animals can breed and range within a functional ecosystem.

Types of hunting in Namibia

Namibia offers a variety of hunting opportunities to meet most requirements and budgets. Prices are scaled to the quality, number and species of trophies, the size of the party and of course location and duration.

Farm Hunting

Farm Hunting is very popular, especially among hunting clients from Europe. Species offered depend on the region, but are usually limited to widespread Namibian game such as kudu, gemsbok, hartebeest, springbuck, warthog, Hartmann’s (mountain) zebra, duiker, steenbuck, jackal and baboon. Cheetah, leopard and caracal are often taken on farms as well.

Farm hunting was developed by stock farmers who wished to diversify their sources of income, so hunting usually takes place alongside normal farming activities and among domestic livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep. In recent years, conservancies have been developed in commercial farming areas wherein farmers cooperate with each other on the conservation and sustainable utilization of their combined wildlife resources. This has the benefit to the client of enlarging the hunting area as well as offering a greater animal population.

Accommodations are typically comfortable, either in specially built and well-equipped facilities or the farm homestead itself, with the owner’s family. This is the ideal way to get to know the people of the country and be exposed to Namibia’s unique and charming lifestyle, cultures and traditions. The host is usually a licensed Hunting Guide or Master Hunting Guide, and this is the best arrangement for the budget-conscious trophy hunter.

Private Game Ranches

Private Game Ranches in dedicated wildlife areas with no domestic stock or interior fences are widespread and becoming increasingly popular in Namibia. The range of trophies they offer is very diverse and often includes sable, blesbuck, giraffe, Cape eland, Livingstone eland, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, southern and black-faced impala, Burchell’s zebra, steenbuck, duiker, tsessebe, white rhino, roan and Damara dik-dik, as well as all the species found on farms and conservancies. Private game ranches in Namibia typically encompass at least 5 000 hectare, with some as large as 70 000 hectare.

Accommodation is usually in luxurious lodges or tent camps and the facilities, service and cuisine are of world-class standard with a distinctly Namibian flair, and the emphasis on the classic African safari ambiance.

Although some people in the international hunting community categorically reject trophy hunting “behind wire” – inside a high game fence, that is – those who have had proper, first-hand experience with it generally develop a different opinion. Hunting in a huge wilderness area, one where game animals exist naturally and self-sustainably can be carried out well within the guidelines for ethical, fair-chase sport (“the pursuit of free wild animals, possessing the natural behavioural inclination to escape from a hunter and fully free to do so”) even if, somewhere in the distance, there is a fence. Even unfenced regions have boundaries.

Namibia also has 76 registered communal conservancies, covering 15.5 million hectares or 18.7%% of the country. These contain hunting concessions in tribal areas where, until recently, communities often found themselves in direct conflict with wildlife for resources. Trophy hunting – carried out by Namibian Professional Hunters in contract with the government and the tribal authorities – greatly benefits these conservancies, where it is now firmly established as a wildlife-management tool and the primary source of income and meat for often marginalized and remote communities. This is ideal for the adventurous trophy hunter who wants to experience “old Africa” in rugged and remote, very sparsely populated areas.

Most hunting for the Big Five takes place in these areas, which have produced some of the largest elephant (the heaviest ivory) taken on the continent during the past two decades.

In 2008 Namibia adopted a new policy to regulate the granting of tourism and trophy hunting permits on state land, which includes game parks as well as protected and communal areas. This will serve as the basis for new laws concerning concessions that are to become part of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s New Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill. The new policy lays down clear objectives and principles for the granting of concessions, including empowerment objectives for the communities in these areas.

Licensing hunting professionals

Intelligent game-management programs to ensure sustainable yields are only part of the whole. Education and training are also of utmost importance as the trophy hunting industry must be responsible for the safety of clients in situations that go far beyond normal tourist activities. To this end, Namibia has several categories of Hunting Professionals, and our country’s standards of training as well as the criteria for these categories are respected around the world. To qualify, applicants must pass both theoretical and practical hunting examinations set by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).

The entry level is that of Hunting Guide, a person licensed to guide hunts on his or her own farm, or the farm where he or she is employed, as well as a conservancy where the land may be registered. A Master Hunting Guide may hunt on two additional farms where the hunting rights are registered in his or her name.

The next rank is Professional Hunter. To become a PH, unless the owner of a guest farm or hunting operation the applicant must successfully complete a two-year apprenticeship with a registered PH and then tackle the notoriously difficult theoretical and practical examinations. A MET-certified PH may hunt with clients anywhere in Namibia with the permission of the landowner.

A Big Game (or Dangerous Game) PH is, in addition to the above, also licensed to take clients to hunt lion, buffalo, elephant, crocodile and rhino. This class of Hunting Professional must first qualify as a PH before gaining the required experience hunting dangerous game and then passing further examinations.

Any of these certified professionals may also qualify as a Bow Hunting Guide by attending a specialized course and passing another set of tests. All Namibian Hunting Professionals are required to hold current MET certificates, to be registered with the Namibian Tourism Board and to refresh their first aid training every two years.

The Namibian Professional Hunting Association

One of the turning points in the history of trophy hunting in Namibia came in 1974, when a group of interested parties banded together to establish NAPHA, the Namibian Professional Hunting Association. NAPHA has become one of the most active and respected organizations of its kind in the world. Although it is a private, not-for-profit and non-governmental organization, NAPHA works closely with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on hunting-related matters. NAPHA members are expected to adhere to strict codes of ethics and guidelines that address hunting and the environment as well as business and social issues.

While many skinners and trackers have superb hunting skills as well as a deep knowledge of fauna and flora, they are often unable to qualify as Hunting Professionals because they are illiterate or semi-literate. One of NAPHA’s proudest achievements was our successful negotiation with MET to allow verbal theoretical examinations. The high standard of the examination is not affected in any way, and the practical test has remained the same. The NAPHA Education committee drew up a detailed syllabus for an intensive 10-day preparatory course with the Eagle Rock Hunting Academy, run by veteran PH and NAPHA founding member Volker Grellmann, and, since the inception of this program in 2001, more than 200 previously disadvantaged Namibians have thus qualified as Hunting Guides or Professional Hunters.

A NAPHA “Hunters Support Education” committee provides books, computers, photocopiers, faxes and even mattresses, blankets, towels and catering equipment to schools across Namibia that educate children from the hunting community. Since 2004, 22 schools throughout Namibia have received donations worth almost a million Namibia dollars. This does not include the independent donations – of funds, learning materials, supplies and meat from the hunt – made by many hunting operators and their guests to schools throughout Namibia. Hunters Support Education also recently introduced an initiative to reward individual students from these schools, selected for their academic excellence and model citizenship. The first award ceremonies took place at the end of 2008; the winners were honoured with NAPHA Certificates as well as N$250 cash prizes. Schools that receive support from NAPHA report an increase in pass rates, especially in the higher grades, resulting from greater motivation among both learners and teachers.

Funding for these Hunter Support Education programs comes from the sale of NAPHA medals and donations from hunters as well as international hunting organizations such as Dallas Safari Club and SCI. NAPHA members believe that education is the most effective way to end the cycle of poverty in Namibia. Trophy hunters are regarded as generous and supportive by the community and it is heart-warming to see the enthusiastic waves and bright smiles of recognition when driving past a rural school in a hunting truck.

Hunting legislation in Namibia

One of NAPHA’s first actions as a duly constituted body was to petition Government for legislation to regulate the trophy hunting industry. Thus “Ordinance No. 4 of 1975 on Nature Conservation” and “Regulations on Trophy Hunting No. 240 of 1976” came into being. These codes stipulate, among other things, that only registered persons and establishments, meeting strict requirements, may participate in commercial trophy hunting. This was regarded as a management tool to help achieve sustainable utilization of game in our country.

Namibian firearms law was designed not to unnecessarily impede visiting trophy hunters, who may temporarily import their own rifles and shotguns with no advance permitting. (Visitors may be asked only to show proof that they have booked a hunt with a registered Namibian hunting operator.) The Namibian Police issue Temporary Weapons Importation Permits at the airport or other point of entry into our country, and this document must be shown again upon departure. A maximum of 100 rounds of ammunition, for the specific calibre only, may be imported. For safety as well as humane kills, there are legal minimum calibres for hunting small, medium and large game. Handguns and automatic weapons are prohibited.

New initiative. The population of huntable game – largely kudu, oryx, springbuck and warthog – on privately owned land in Namibia has grown by 8%% per annum since 1972. However, since 2005 the off-take of those species by the trophy hunting industry has increased by 22.5%% per annum. In addition, non-trophy game animals are also utilized for meat as well as live capture and sale.

Thus the demand for certain species of game has begun to grow at a more rapid rate than production and we are no longer using those game populations sustainably. NAPHA is consequently reaching out to commercial farmers (that is, those raising crops or domestic stock for market rather than subsistence) to educate them about game ranching and trophy hunting.

NAPHA has presented 2 workshops, in 2008 and 2011, specifically for emerging commercial farmers, in order to promote game ranching and trophy hunting as an effective and lucrative form of land use, provided it is done in a controlled, sustainable and ethical manner. The workshops were attended by government ministers, members of parliament and new farmers as well as business people aspiring to become farmers and trophy hunting operators. The majority of the farmers who attended came from previously disadvantaged communities.

The Ministry of Environment recently introduced a program to stock farms belonging to emerging commercial farmers free of charge with breeding populations of a variety of game species, with the agreement that MET would capture the same number of animals for relocation once viable herds had been established on the farms. This initiative is expected to make a valuable contribution towards addressing the increase in demand for certain game species by international trophy hunting clients.

Conclusion

Thanks to Namibia’s excellent hunting opportunities, the variety and quality of game species, outstanding hunting professionals and the focus on fair chase, our political stability and well-developed infrastructure, Namibia is now firmly established as one of Africa’s most popular and successful trophy hunting destinations.

As Namibian citizens, we realise it is essential for each of us to utilize our land to its fullest potential in sustainable ways by developing farming operations that make meaningful contributions to our country. Game ranching and trophy hunting are, without a doubt, two of the most lucrative means of doing so. The inherent biological, ecological and physiological advantages of wild animals, and the fact that wildlife offers substantial extra value beyond meat and hide, make game ranching and trophy hunting extremely beneficial forms of land utilization, as well as proven tools for conservation.

Trophy hunting currently employs more people and pays better salaries, as well as provides more training, skill recognition and job promotion opportunities than any other form of commercial agricultural or communal conservancy land utilization in Namibia.

It is with pride I say that the results of the past five decades have proved that selective, ethical and sustainable trophy hunting is one of the most effective and lucrative forms of land utilization, as well as a great conservation tool in our country.

Marina Lamprecht owns and personally manages Hunters Namibia Safaris with her husband, Professional Hunter Joof Lamprecht. They are based on the family’s vast wildlife reserve in eastern Namibia. Marina can be contacted at marina@huntersnamibia.com Websit


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