“I started working as a game ranger in November 2014. I enjoy patrolling, and I enjoy arresting poachers. Arresting a poacher is not something to play with, you have to have the right tactics to approach the poacher.” Game Guard at Salambala Conservancy, Costar Mbalolo
In an area surrounded by floodplains in the Zambezi Region lies a conservancy called Shalambala Conservancy. The conservancy is home to some 15 000 people. People who have become committed to the fight against poaching.
Through the conservancy system in Namibia, the power to protect wildlife has been placed in the hands of the community who live with the wildlife. This system of conservation, driven by the people, is one that has brought applause for Namibia from all corners of the globe for our proactive approach to conservation.
99FM’s MYD Earth travelled to the Zambezi Region to find out first-hand what is happening in this beautifully remote region with regard to conservation done by communities. What was uncovered was passionate people fighting to protect our natural resources, not only for themselves but also for future generations.
Why This is Important
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism recently released the latest statistics on poached animals in Namibia, putting the total of carcasses found during the first few months of this year at a staggering 60 already.
The added effect of poaching is not only a decrease in the population of the poached species, but also a decrease in the non-targeted species, as well as affecting overall conservation and tourism. With wide spread poaching comes the negative publicity attributed to hunting that sees fewer resources ultimately ending up in conservation.
What is Being Done
In an effort to combat poaching of wildlife in Namibia, conservancies and government work hand in hand to foster a sense of ownership among Namibia’s people. The inhabitants of Namibia’s conservancies live alongside wild animals, which they protect in the midst of poachers and tolerate in the midst of ruined crops.
According to a NACSO review, community conservation “is built on the ability of local communities to use wildlife to generate returns.”
Getting communities to feel a sense of ownership over the wildlife in their conservancies has the effect of a decrease in poaching. Poachers most often make use of locals to gain information about animals as well as cooperation, but as soon as community members feel a need to protect the animals, poachers are left empty handed. Community game guards make it difficult for poaching syndicates to get away with the death of animals, where these animals play a role in community upliftment.
Communities are enticed to look after the wild animals in their area, even in the face of human-wildlife conflict that has halted conservation efforts in the past. These days, community members are reimbursed for the domestic animals they may have lost, and the information they provide by reporting incidents go a long way to building up a database of wildlife statistics. Moreover, communities are less likely to hunt wild animals for meat, which could lead to a dramatic decrease in certain populations, when said animals are of more value to them alive. This value comes from trophy hunting, which unlike hunting by the community is strictly controlled and managed by a quota system, but which nonetheless feeds the community itself.
Innovative institutions such as the Namibia Rhino Custodian Programme sees local communities becoming custodians over the rhino’s in their area, and the program is a resounding success, recognized not just nationally, but internationally. When local people work with law enforcement, it becomes ever more difficult for would-be poachers. The benefits and rewards for custodianship are the only balance to the financial incentives a community could gain from poaching, or helping poachers. By empowering communities through a sense of ownership, poaching as an activity is on the decrease, and more energy can go into conservation efforts rather than stopping poachers.
About Salambala Conservancy in the Zambezi Region
Salambala Conservancy is found in a remote communal area that is surrounded by woodlands, pans and flood plains. In an area that covers some 930 thousand square kilometers, Salambala borders Botswana, the Chobe Forest reserve, the Chobe national park and more.
The people there have a vested interest in protecting wildlife. Their income is derived from joint venture lodges in their conservancy, camp sites, craft centres and hunting quotas which are determined by comprehensive game counts in the area.
The management committee of Salambala, which comprises elected community members, say poaching numbers are down in the region with the help of dedicated members of the community fighting to ensure this stays this way.
Take a listen to interviews held with members of Salambala conservancy in the Zambezi Region, along with first hand accounts of the fight against poaching by game guards at the conservancy, as featured on the MYD Earth Show, here :
Article written by Nina van Schalkwyk and Kirsty Watermeyer