Namibia plays the game

Political stability, beautiful scenery and diversity of natural game draw hunters to Namibia. The Namibian Professional Hunting Association predicts an exceptionally good year and many Namibian ranchers saw the opportunity to diversify and invest in game. Servaas van den Bosch writes that this plays a central role in the sector.
Issue date : 01 August 2008

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Jaco Alberts, a professional hunter in Namibia, guides his clients on hunts for game, some species of which the hunters have never even seen before. Warthog, gemsbok, zebra, jackal, springbok, hartebeest and finally the elusive kudu all fell prey to the rifle of one of the hunters, octogenarian Keith Bryant from Boise in Idaho in the US. His hunting trip was a birthday gift.

For Jaco, the business is about driving the clients in safari vehicles to the areas where the game is found and then tracking it on foot. More often than not the animals sense the danger and make a quick exit, leaving the hunters to start all over again. It’s all part of the thrill.European countries like Russia and Croatia are the big players now that they can travel and have the forex. “The emergence of more markets boosts hunting as a tourism product, and in the industry increasingly caters to a broader market than just the wealthy big-game hunter.

People from all walks of life, some with hardly an idea of what hunting entails, now flip through pricelists and ask in all seriousness, ‘what’s a kudu?’ One client confessed after two days of missing shots that he had actually never fired a gun before.” Although NAPHA is reluctant to have regulations slapped on the sector, the growth of wildlife management creates its own problems. “It’s absolutely a free sector, we don’t have price controls or anything like that, but it would be good to get agreement on different aspects, such as between the trophy hunting and the biltong industry, which both target the biggest animals,” says Diethelm.

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“Also, international regulations on the export of trophies could be better managed,” argues Manfred Gorn, the founder of Trophaendienste Namibia, one of the oldest and largest taxidermists in the country. “It’s almost impossible to export a trophy to SA, because of incomprehensible veterinary regulations.” Regulations also hinder the proper alignment of wildlife management and nature conservation. “For instance, we have 16 000 elephant and can only shoot 75 per year,” says Gorn. “It should be closer to 300 if you want to avoid conflict with humans.”

Several professional hunters say Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism is quick to label animals such as elephant, lion and cheetah “problematic”, so that they can be shot by trophy hunters on top of the existing quotas. Contact the NAPHA on +26 461 23 4455 or e-mail [email protected]. |fw