Rhino hunt auction a valid approach

7 Jun 2016 | News

By Jana-Mari Smith at the Namibian Sun

Amid fierce protest and controversy on social media platforms and elsewhere, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism last week announced that three critically endangered black rhinos would be auctioned to the highest bidder for trophy hunting.

The ministry has earned millions of dollars over the past few years from big-game hunters setting their sight on the rare species, amid growing concern by animal activists and wildlife groups locally and internationally.
Conservationist Angus Middleton, executive director at the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF), said despite the controversy, hunting the three males makes economic and ecological sense.

In response to the outcry, Middleton said the world would be a poorer place “if we lacked emotions and there is validity to people being sad about three old rhino being shot, but there is also much validity to those who have a more pragmatic approach.” He said the “rise of internet vigilantism” is unacceptable, especially if it undermines the government’s “perfectly valid choice to pursue this route [that] is mandated by the constitution”. He added that the fact that “it is being done in an open and transparent manner” should be applauded, in addition to the fact that the offering is an opportunity for local hunting operators to benefit, as well as rural communities.


Big-game hunters.
The advertisement stated that the three post-reproductive males are on offer to Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) registered companies linked to professionally registered big-game hunters, and can be hunted during the current hunting season ending November 2016. The advertisement furthermore announced a 20% or 10% discount for companies with at least 20% ownership by formerly disadvantaged Namibians or those employing formerly disadvantaged professional hunters. Written financial offers can be made before the end of June, the ministry advised.

Funds collected will be channelled to the Game Products Trust Fund Account, which reroutes the money to conservation projects in the country, according to the ministry.

Shortly after the advertisement appeared, social media platforms erupted with an outcry against the planned hunts, which is likely to increase as the bids are accepted and the hunts get under way.

Middleton explained that with a decrease of government spending on environmental issues, due to the fact that the majority of funds are earmarked to provide Namibians with basic services, including education, health, food security and more, the ministry’s choice to pursue much-needed income through initiatives such as black rhino trophy hunts should be supported.

Middleton pointed out that concurrent to decreased spending on conservation, the massive escalation of rhino poaching has put enormous strain on the ministry, which increases the need for required resources.
Middleton furthermore noted that males who are beyond their reproductive age are a “menace to other rhino … so ecologically they are non-productive at best and in the case of such a rare species potentially harmful.”
Namibia Professional Hunting Association (Napha) CEO Tanja Dahl said that old rhino bulls become more aggressive the older they get and territorial fights often result in the death of young males in their reproductive phase.
In addition, Middleton said all the funds will make their way back to the Game Products Trust fund, “which goes directly back to conservation.”
Middleton said in addition to the fact that the quota for the trophy hunts is sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), sustainable use of natural resources is enshrined in the constitution and is part of Namibia’s “highly regarded conservation model”. He added that Namibians largely support this choice, especially those in rural communities who host the majority of wildlife populations.

According to WWF, global black rhino numbers currently stand at approximately 5 000, with 98% of the total population found in just four countries, namely South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya.