Namibia: A leading model for conservation

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The country of Namibia is likely the biggest leader for wildlife conservation in Africa. This great success is thanks to a wide range of incentives for the conservation of wildlife by private citizens. Essentially, for wildlife to thrive it must have value. Many people think wildlife has intrinsic value, and I would agree with this. Simply knowing the animals are there and that I may be able to see them one day is enough for me. This, however, is a First World luxury. When you are starving and cannot afford to feed your family aesthetic values do not mean anything to you. Namibia’s conservation efforts have been extremely successful as they specifically address this issue in their wildlife management strategy.


Namibia was not always a wildlife paradise though. Before it gained independence in 1990 wildlife populations were at all time lows. Predators were seen as threats to cattle and thus were designated as vermin to be exterminated. Herbivores were seen as competition for grazing lands as well as sources of meat. During the military occupation of Namibia wildlife was illegally slaughtered by soldiers and locals for bush meat. Conservation was not a priority.

The bull

However, after Namibia gained its independence from South Africa conservation became a top priority. Namibians recognized the wildlife was part of their cultural heritage as well as an excellent source of income. Local communities could now apply to become conservancies and gain ownership of their wildlife. Communities saw opportunities to generate income from the wildlife rather than exterminate the animals to make room for their cattle. Wildlife has become one of the largest sectors of the Namibian economy through photo safaris, ecolodges, regulated hunting, and meat harvesting. Thanks to these economic incentives Namibia now has 79 conservancies covering over 16 million hectares. According to the World Wildlife Fund 44% of Namibia’s land area is devoted to conservation. The benefits of this new-found conservation mindedness in Namibia is evident. Predator populations are recovering, herbivores are found in excellent numbers, and poaching is relatively low.


To my shame I have not yet visited Namibia, but this is something I hope to remedy soon. This country is truly a gem of wildlife conservation due to its multi-faceted approach to wildlife management. Below are a few more links to information about Namibian conservation efforts.

Namibia: A Model For Conservation | First For Wildlife.

Namibian Cheetah Conservation Success Story.



The Three Amigos: A win for conservation of three rare antelope species

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A victory for conservation was recently announced. On January 20 of this year President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Bill, which includes a provision to help prevent the extinction of three rare antelope species. The “Three Amigos” provision of the Omnibus Bill allows ranchers in Texas to manage their herds of addax, dama gazelle, and scimitar-horned oryx without federal intervention.

Scimitar-horned oryx

For those that have followed this blog for a while you may remember one of my first posts was about these three species. The link to which can be found at the bottom of this page. These three species virtually extinct in the wild, yet they are thriving here in the US on large hunting ranches in Texas. Unfortunately, as I predicted their numbers took a drastic hit over the last few years due to this ban. Most census data puts their populations at roughly half of what they were in 2010. This was thanks to the ban on hunting of these species in Texas. Essentially what happened was the ban removed the value from these animals. Several animal rights activists decided they would rather see the species completely extinct rather than survive on hunting ranches. When the animals no longer had value they were no longer cared for. These ranchers are businessmen and could not afford to waste time or money on an animal that would not help them make ends meet.

Dama gazelle

The good news is, value has been restored to the three species in question. The bill has just been signed, but hopefully we will start seeing the benefits soon as populations hopefully begin to increase here in the US. I for one would rather see these beautiful creatures continue to thrive, even if a few have to be hunted, than for them to be lost forever.



North American Conservation Updates

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Venison Sale Restrictions Should Be Loosened, Some Say – WSJ.com.

With turkeys gone wild, Maine expands hunting – Yahoo Finance.

AOL On – Alligator Spotted Near Road Leads to Bizarre 911 Call.

Logging threatens Monarch butterflies in Mexico.

Coyotes | Environment and Conservation.


New Zealand: Experiment in Ecosystem development

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New Zealand is a beautiful place. Emerald hills, rugged mountains, and lush forests all mixed together to create unique habitats. But probably the most interesting aspect of New Zealand is that it has no native species of land based mammals. In fact the only mammals native to this island country  are a few bats.

Mountains in New Zealand

Mountains in New Zealand

This may seem weird as New Zealand has become somewhat famous for the size of its red deer. While these islands are now home to several large mammals these species are not supposed to be there. They were imported by Europeans as they began to settle the area. Since then many species of game animals, particularly red stags and fallow deer have thrived in this lush country.

Ever since humans arrived on these islands we have been manipulating the ecosystem. The Giant Moas were among the first victims of humans in New Zealand. These relatives of ostriches were easy prey for the first settlers of New Zealand and were quickly wiped out. Later, when the first Europeans arrived bringing along land based mammals the ecosystem was again drastically altered leading to further declines in bird life.

Giant Moas

Giant Moas

Until the intervention of man, these islands were the only place in the world where birds had won the evolutionary arms race against mammals. Across all other land masses mammals were the dominant life forms. This was the one great stronghold of birds in which they were the dominant taxa. All ecological niches had been filled by the evolution of some adaptation or another within birds. Even to this day birds dominate the landscape outside of those areas which man has aided his mammalian stock in taking hold.


9 Essential Facts About the Dallas Safari Club’s Rhino Hunt Permit Auction


The proposed plan to auction off a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia has stirred up a lot of controversy. Many critics of the plan cannot understand that selective hunting can actually benefit conservation efforts. Hopefully the following link can help bring understanding as to how this is beneficial.

9 Essential Facts About the Dallas Safari Club’s Rhino Hunt Permit Auction.


Does hunting affect the gene pool?

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Boone and Crockett Club | Wildlife Conservation | Deer Hunting | Elk Hunting | Big Game Hunting | Wildlife Conservation | Deer Hunting | Elk Hunting | Big Game Hunting.


Kenya and Tanzania: The difference between conservation and preservation


I fell in love with Africa the first time I set eyes on her. Beautiful landscapes set the backdrop for a kaleidoscope of cultures. But, what draws me back to her soils over and over is the bountiful wildlife. It was the wildlife that led me back to Africa, this time to visit Kenya and Tanzania. As I had just completed my Bachelor’s of Science in natural resource ecology and management I was keen to put my new degree to the test on this trip. I made detailed notes of the wildlife I was seeing as I traveled through the parks of these two countries. I quickly noticed some major differences between them and wanted to share my observations and conclusions with the readers of this page.

Grevy's Zebra in Lewa

Grevy’s Zebra in Lewa

Tanzania and Kenya have drastically different approaches when it comes to wildlife management. Kenya has been closed to big game hunting since 1977, whereas Tanzania is still one of the top countries for hunting safaris in Africa. These different approaches have allowed the wildlife of one country to thrive while the other has sharply declined. It may surprise some folks that Tanzania is the one that is actually thriving. For years I have heard and read accounts of how Tanzania’s wildlife is booming while Kenya’s wildlife has declined by 70-80% since the late ’70s. Most of what I have learned about conservation and wildlife management at OSU would support this idea, but my scientific training I received there has also taught me to question everything especially if I cannot find a source without obvious bias. After all, most reports of Tanzania’s success and Kenya’s decline come from pro-hunting sources. Likewise I have read many accounts of Kenya being the best, but these were published by openly anti-hunting organizations. With so much contradicting evidence and very few credible sources I set out to discover the truth for myself. So here is my personal evaluation of both countries:

My time in Kenya was amazing! I have never met friendlier people and it was an awesome experience to walk in the footsteps of some of my personal heroes such as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. I was in the heart of classic Africa and loving it. Which is why I was so disappointed when I realized that everything I had heard was true. I loved the people, landscapes, and history so much that by the end of my time in Kenya my own personal bias made me want to reject what I saw.

At the Watering Hole

The wildlife we saw in Kenya was abysmal compared to what I have seen in other parts of Africa. Tsavo, which I had greatly looked forward to, was almost barren of wildlife except for birds. The birding in Kenya was truly its saving grace, although bird levels were just as good in Tanzania. I can give an exact head count on every mammal species seen in Kenya, whereas in Tanzania the herds were so large I had to estimate numbers. I must admit that I was not able to coordinate a few days in Kenya’s Maasai Mara area, which is supposed to be its best park. However, this is the northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. For the purpose of removing this bias I can say it is easy to assume the wildlife levels in these parks are relatively the same throughout the year as most species migrate from one to the other. Even removing the Serengeti factor from my analysis the wildlife I observed in all four of Kenya’s parks i visited, including the Lewa Conservancy, combined did not match up with the variety and abundance of wildlife I saw in any of the other three parks I saw in Tanzania. By itself Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park with its small area and extremely thick vegetation, which greatly diminished visibility, surpassed the Kenyan parks.


But why is this the case? Shouldn’t Kenya’s wildlife be thriving since there is no more hunting? In essence, no. Africa is a hot bed of poaching both for feeding the Asian black market and for feeding the people living near game reserves, bush meat. The main approaches to combat these problems are anti-poaching patrols and public outreach/ community involvement campaigns. Lewa and the surrounding reserves are good examples of community involvement/ outreach programs in Kenya, in fact the Lewa Conservancy will be the topic of my next post as it was the only successful system I witnessed in Kenya. But these methods require a lot of funding, funding which Tanzania has and Kenya does not due to taxes and fees on the hunting industry. A portion of every dollar raised through hunting goes back into conservation. This money pays for education, anti-poaching, habitat improvement, and community development. Not only does the wildlife benefit, the local people receive benefits as well for simply tolerating the wildlife. This is why hunting is such a powerful tool in conservation, it brings value to wildlife which would otherwise be a nuisance.

Poached rhino with  calf

Poached rhino with calf

Conservation, directly managing wildlife through sustainable use, has been superior to preservation, hands off and let nature take its course, throughout much of the history of wildlife management. With an ever expanding human population more and more efforts are needed to protect and conserve wildlife. This is where sustainable use methods of conservation, such as hunting, step in to pay the bills. Tanzania likely has such great wildlife populations today because they have kept this idea as the core of their wildlife management approach, while across the border Kenya has rejected it.


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