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By Jana-Mari Smith
Last week, Namibia became a signatory of the London Declaration of Wildlife Trade. Namibia was one of 46 countries to do so.
The Declaration aims to address and end the billion dollar illegal wildlife trade industry, which is pushing many animals to the brink of extinction, including the black rhino and elephants.
The Declaration makes provisions, amongst other things, of the:
- Eradication of the demand for illegal wildlife products,
- Establishment of effective global legal frameworks,
- Strengthening of enforcement measures, including the ability to successfully prosecution and
- the recognition of the importance and significance of sustainable livelihoods and economic development in the conservation of endangered species
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Environment and Tourism, attended the conference, where she not only shared Namibia’s anti-poaching methods but also highlighted Namibia’s successes in boosting the country’s once threatened wildlife species, including rhinos, cheetahs, lions and elephants.
The Minister said that all countries facing the challenge of illegal wildlife trade is welcome to visit Namibia “to come and see for yourselves and we will gladly share our success story with you”.
Nandi-Ndaitwah told the conference delegates that Namibia’s constitution uniquely enshrines sustainable wildlife management and government is required by Article 95 of the Namibian constitution to protect the environment, the ecosystem and the biodiversity, and to ensure its sustainable utilisation for the benefit of the current and future generations.
She highlighted some of Namibia’s successes in wildlife re-population, which has meant that the country has been earned the moniker of one of the “world’s greatest wildlife recovery stories every told”.
- In 1995, there were about 700 elephants in Namibia, and that number has now increased to more than 25 000
- Elephants in Namibia are no longer endangered but are designated as specially protected species
- Namibia has the largest population of free roaming black rhino in the world
- Namibia is the world cheetah capital, with 2500 animals
- More than 750 lions roam Namibia
- An increase in both large and small antelope populations has occurred in the past two decades
Nandi-Ndaitwah explained that these successes are primarly a result of the Community Based Natural Resource Management programme (CBNRM).This programme was set up in 1992, and to date there are 78 communal conservation areas / conservancies in Namibia, benefitting over 200 000 families.
Nandi-Ndaitwah added that “Namibia’s successful conservation programme has come at a cost. As both the human and wildlife populations grow and the available land remain the same size, incidents of human wildlife conflict are increasing and consequently human lives and properties are lost. That is why the constitutional obligation of sustainable utilisation has become critical, to create a balance for humans and wildlife to co-exist”.
She added that Namibia “strongly” believes, that to effectively fight poaching, to ensure sustainable conservation of wildlife and bring an end to illegal trade on wildlife products “communities who live with wildlife need to be empowered so that the would be international criminal gangs will not get a chance to influence them …”.
Namibia is not immune to wildlife poaching. In 2012, poaching “started showing its ugly face”, when 78 elephants were poached in the north-eastern corners of Namibia. But, due “to effective measures put in place to fight poaching, since then only 30 elephants were poached in 2013”, the Minister says.
These measures include amendments to conservation laws and policies and capacity building of communities and law enforcement agencies. New technologies and tactics have been introduced to fight poaching.