Conservation challenges in Namibia
The main conservation challenge which Namibia and, more generally, Southern Africa faces is diminishing wildlife habitats due to human population growth. Both rural and urban development have had a negative impact on wildlife populations, which are competing with people over the same land and resources. The rate of urbanisation is increasing annually in Namibia, with an urban population estimated to be 46.7% of the total population in 2015 (The World Factbook – Central Intelligence Agency) and increasing yearly. With about half the population of Namibia depending on agriculture for its livelihood, continued habitat conversion to agricultural farmland threatens local wildlife through habitat loss and grazing competition. Over the past 200 years, many game species – carnivores and herbivores alike – have experienced a 95% reduction of their former range and extreme population declines due, in part, to habitat loss.
With an increasing human population, agricultural land conversions follow higher instances of human-wildlife conflict on commercial land. Human-wildlife conflict refers to the negative impact on humans and their resources, as well as on wildlife and their habitat due to interaction and competition for these resources. One of the leading causes of human-wildlife conflict in Namibia is the interaction between predators and farmers. Losses due to carnivores preying on livestock, real or perceived, often result in lethal retaliation against big cats, wild dogs and other predators. Conflict between elephants and humans also occurs around competition for water sources, with elephants attacking humans and damaging infrastructure, and humans retaliating in response. Human-wildlife conflict affects a wide range of African wildlife including baboons and rock hyraxes, which often forage on crops or damage property.
Another major threat to Namibian wildlife is poaching, which often goes hand-in-hand with poverty. Persecuted animals include elephants and rhinos, who are slaughtered for their horns, cheetah cubs, which are taken from their mothers in order to be raised as pets, and pangolins, the only mammal with scales, which are hunted for their meat and scales. Poaching for illegal wildlife trade or bush meat has had a drastic effect on the decline of animal species around the African continent. While some of the larger-scale poaching operations are led by organised syndicates, it is the impoverished community members on the ground who are often forced to carry out the task of killing for a menial monetary payoff.
Conservation Policy in Namibia
Namibia became a leader in conservation and was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. Through the creation of communal conservancies, rural communities are given the opportunity to manage their natural resources sustainably and to benefit from wildlife. This is now considered as a complimentary land use method in conjunction with agriculture and livestock herding.
As a result, poaching has become less and less socially acceptable, as conservancy members are committed to protecting and sustaining wildlife for their tourism value. Namibia’s conservancy movement and other conservation efforts, such as eco-tourism, have restored populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, zebras and other native wildlife of the world’s richest dry land.
N/a’an ku sê Conservation Activities
N/a’an ku sê has adopted a holistic approach to conservation, which is based on the recognition that an ecosystem’s heath is linked to its local populations’ wellbeing. We look not only at the wildlife factors, but also the human factors and the landscapes to which they belong.