Charlotte Williams is a
highly respected and increasingly celebrated British ﬁne artist with a
particular interest in wildlife. She is entirely self-taught and was
drawing her first animal portraits as young as nine years old.
Despite being afforded a scholarship to Farnham Art College
in her late teens, she headed instead for South Africa and the ‘bush’, where
she spent several years living and working on a game reserve in the Eastern
Transvaal. Immersed in the raw environment of the veldt, it was here
that Charlotte’s life-long passion for animals and the wild was born, and
where she passed many hundreds of hours wandering, observing and sketching all
that she saw.
On her return to the
UK in the mid-1990s, Charlotte continued to dedicate herself to art,
this time in Brighton. She went on to exhibit her work in numerous shows -
locally, and in London. She has since been in great demand and
the majority of her work today is by commission, both at home and
Charlotte’s consuming affection for wildlife
conservation has remained paramount, and her depiction of Cecil The Lion,
who lived primarily in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, has become one of
her iconic portraits. She later auctioned the portrait to
raise funds and awareness of the battle against poaching, and she today
continues to support myriad conservation enterprises and wildlife foundations
across the globe.
Each of Charlotte’s meticulous artworks aims to capture the
soul and spirit of her subjects, from behind the eyes, so that you might know
them and feel them, as if they were living and breathing before you. Her
appreciation of wild animals, coupled with her unapologetic perfectionism -
enable her to create paintings and drawings that are unique and wholly
Though now based in her studio in rural East Sussex since
2010 she has an ever growing global following on social media and has
recently been made a signature member of Artists For Conservation. She is
represented by numerous people, including the prestigious London and Sussex
based gallery Rountree Tryon and has exhibited at, amongst others, Masterpiece
Art and Gallery Different in London
Mojostreaming is a proud sponsor of this year's 2021 WCFF!
Be sure to watch last year's WCFF finalist and Mojo's favorite Documentary: Trailer: youtu.be
Wach the film here:
Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (WCFF) is an international film festival based in New York and Los Angeles, that promotes and produces interactive events around independent films that promote sustainability and the conservation of biodiversity. The WCFF has global partnerships in Brazil, China, Kenya, and Scandinavia as of November 2019.
The Wildlife Conservation Film Festival was founded in 2010 by Christopher J. Gervais, FRGS at first as a 2-day event and has now grown to a 10-day festival. It is a juried event with attendees and participants that include international wildlife conservationists, filmmakers, photographers, scientists, and people across the globe that work toward the preservation of global biodiversity. WCFF has a global educational outreach program with secondary and post-secondary institutions in North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe as of 2019.
Be sure to visit their website: wcff.org
Board of Advisors:
Holly Marie Combs
Dr. Sylvia Earle
Dr. Birute’ Mary Galdikas
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Dr. David Guggenheim
Dr. Paula Kahumbu, OGW
Ian Redmond, OBE
Dr. E.O. Wilson
Dr. Patricia C. Wright
A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell
In 1957, Gerald Durrell and his wife set out to "collect" animals from Bafut in the British Cameroons of West Africa for their zoo, a location for which was yet to be secured. They returned with a menagerie of creatures and the novel is an account of how he shifts the animals around England while scouting for a permanent location. 'Throughout my life,' he writes, 'I have rarely if ever achieved what I wanted by tackling it in a logical fashion.' A Zoo in my Luggage is a hilarious true story of animal relocation written in Durrell's inimitable style that combines charming descriptions with dry humour. His timeless classic, My Family and Other Animals, is a childhood adventure. This novel captures his unwavering love for wildlife and nature as an adult.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Who can forget Mowgli? The little boy who was raised by a pack of wolves in the jungles of India. The book follows his adventures with all kinds of animals—Bagheera the black panther and Baloo the bear who teach him the important laws of the jungle to Sher Khan, the tiger who is Mowgli's mortal enemy. Other stories include Rikki-Tiki-Tavi, the tale of a brave mongoose who saves a family from two vicious cobras and Toomai, a young mahout and his elephant. The book transports you to a world of forests and animals, one riddled with meaning and symbolism in a way that can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
After much persuasion from his friends and family, Jim Corbett finally penned down this riveting memoir of his encounters with big cats in the Indian Himalayas. First published in 1944 by Oxford University Press, Corbett used stories from his previous book titled Jungle Stories as its basis. The stories follow him as he tracks and kills several man-eating tigers in India, including the terrifying Champawat Tigress, who set a world record by killing 436 people in Nepal and India before being shot by Corbett in 1907.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen
The Snow Leopard is a day-by-day account of the author's journey into the remote Dolpo region of the Nepal Himalayas with his friend, the biologist George Schaller, to study the mating patterns of the Himalayan blue sheep. He also hopes to catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard which ultimately becomes a metaphor for his own spiritual quest as the book progresses. "Figures dark beneath their loads pass down the far bank of the river, rendered immortal by the streak of sunset upon their shoulders." His empathy towards the natural makes this book one of the greatest examples of both nature and travel writing.
The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
Lawrence Anthony, the wildlife conservationist, took in a herd of wild African elephants at his Thula Thula game reserve. The matriarch and her baby had been shot leaving the herd traumatized and highly dangerous. Anthony realized he might be their last chance of survival. This book is the incredible story of his struggle to form a bond with these elephants who ultimately accepted Anthony as their matriarch. When he died in 2012, the same herd of elephants made a twelve-hour journey to his home to mourn his death.
The white ring around the waterbuck’s hindquarters has led to many tales. A favorite is that they were the first animals to use the toilet on Noah’s Ark. The newly-installed toilet seats on the ark were still wet with paint and left a distinctive white ring on their rumps. Despite these bucks being a part of the ‘butt joke’, there are valid reasons for the white markings on their hindquarters. Flashes of color often scare off predators and act as a ‘follow me’ sign, helping other waterbucks flee when in danger.
Waterbuck are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females have external differences apart from their reproductive organs.
Males can be up to 25% larger than their female counterparts and they carry the defining feature of beautiful, long, ringed horns.
These horns curve backward and then forward and vary in length from 55 cm to 99 cm. The age of the bull determines the length of the horns.
Waterbuck horns will begin to develop at around 8 to 9 months and mark the young buck’s time to separate from the herd. Young males form bachelor groups remain together until they mature and move on to make their own herd. Waterbucks’ diets are rich in protein and other nutrients. This includes coarse grasses that are seldom eaten by other plain animals and long sweet grasses like buffalo grass.
During the dry season, they supplement their diet by browsing on leaves from shrubs and certain trees, such as the Sweet thorn (Vachellia karroo). At times, you will find them shoulder-deep in water, eating roots and other aquatic plants.
They also enjoy browsing on certain fruits, especially the marula fruit during the ripe season. These antelope typically eat in the mornings and late afternoons and chew cud for the remainder of the day.
These herbivorous animals have remarkably high water requirements. They need to drink often, which is one reason why they remain close to permanent water points at all times. You’ll often find them nestled in reed beds near rivers and dams, or on floodplains.
Common waterbuck are social animals. They live in herds or groups of up to 12. Male antelopes are dominant over a certain territory, and their herd consists of females, young bachelors, and calves.
The herds are constantly changing, as individuals can join or leave at any time, provided there aren’t other males looking to dominate the territory.
When a bachelor threatens the territory of a herd leader, the dominant male will posture aggressively and even start a fight if necessary. These fights can be fatal, as the waterbuck uses its long, strong horns in combat.
Typically, a waterbuck will live up to 18 years in the wild. In general, 12-15 years is a good life for a wild waterbuck. @GodfreytheGuide #Antelope #https://www.instagram.com/p/CQo-ZP4gIwZ/?utm_medium=copy_link
Sending you lovely greetings from the land of mountain
Gorillas and the Pearl of Africa. Following our interaction last week, I come
here again with some facts about mountain Gorillas, which I have learnt throughout.
Truly I first encountered them, when I was 5 years old,
since then my experience and love for them has been interesting
. Gorillas are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous
great apes that inhabit the tropical forests of central Sub-Saharan Africa. The
Gorilla genus is divided into two species the eastern gorillas and the western
gorillas, and either four or five subspecies. They are the largest remaining
primates (Apes) on earth.
As our main focus is on Mountain gorillas, mountain gorillas
only live in the dense vegetation of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
National Park and along the dormant volcanic Virunga Mountain range that
stretches across Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, Uganda's Mgahinga Gorilla
National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
the questions was, what’s
threatening the live of a gorilla and will they be extinct?
One of the main reason’s gorillas are going extinct is
habitat loss, forests where gorillas have lived for many years are being
destroyed for agricultural use, commercial logging and many other activities,
this leaves gorillas in hard conditions as they can hardly live elsewhere
except in their Natural habitats
other burning and lovely question was, how strong are mountain Gorillas?
Now, I want to make one thing clear. No one really knows how
strong a gorilla is. They haven’t competed in strong man (ape) competitions.
And no one has fought a gorilla against a buffalo, hippo or even a bear
(thankfully). This post is a combination of facts and conjecture.
interesting question was, do gorillas talk?
Just like in humans, gorilla communication can occur through
a variety of methods body postures, facial expressions, vocalizations. Mountain
Gorillas use a variety of behaviors and vocalizations to communicate dominance
one was, what do
Mountain Gorillas stick to a mainly vegetarian diet, feeding
on stems, bamboo shoots and fruits. Western lowland gorillas, however, also
have an appetite for termites and ants, and break open termite nests to eat the
main deal of this article was, where do mountain gorillas sleep?
Mountain Gorillas build nests in which to sleep, both on the
ground and in trees, made of leaves and branches. Counting abandoned nests is
an effective way for scientists to estimate population size. As you will see
the photos bellow.
course, like many conservationists. Another question was who scares the gentle
mountain gorillas like other primates and humans are scared
of water and some insects like caterpillars and reptiles like Chameleon.
Gorillas like other apes including humans find it hard to swim naturally which
prompts them to desist from expanse water masses (big water bodies) like Lakes
and Rivers. And part from humans,
gorillas don't really have enemies. The only predator to prey on gorillas is
the leopard. Walter Baumgärtel found the remains of several gorillas after they
had been killed by leopards in the Virunga Volcanoes.
other questions was, how can one help to save these gentle Giants?
One of the most effective ways to help mountain gorillas
survive, is to donate money to organizations working on the ground to conserve
the species. Numerous organizations including Over and Above Bwindi (OAB) under
spent decades finding effective methods for protecting mountain gorillas, and
most rely on grants and donations to fund our work through these activities, you
would have surely saved a gorilla.
Trekking or tracking the gorillas.
Avoid trekking gorillas when you're ill.
Making direct Donations.
Support the local communities.
Follow rules and regulations.
Engage in other activities.
For more information please contact us through the link below .
For more information please contact us through the link below .
REFLECTING ON THE CBNRM (COMMUNITY BASED
NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT) MODEL IN ITS CURRENT FORM- PROTECTED AREAS AND THEIR
POTENTIAL TO IMPROVE THE STATUS QUO.
By Izak Smit, chairperson of DeLHRA
(Desert Lions Human Relations Aid).
21 May 2021
This is OP-ED is simply based on the view
of the author based on 32 years of regularly traversing the areas in question
of which the last ten years were spent more intensively focussing on Desert
Lion Human Conflict whilst working with Conservancies and the affected communities.
NAMIBIAN CONSERVATION-BEFORE AND AFTER
INDEPENDENCE 21 MARCH 1990
Before independence, the “Suidwes Afrika
Natuurbewaring” was pretty much run autonomously in a military fashion where
every-one knew their place and a low tolerance for outsiders was maintained.
Discipline was the order of the day and maintenance of infra-structure a high
priority. To the old “Bokkiewagters” (Game Rangers), it was not a job but a
calling and way of living. The top structure ruled with an iron fist and outsiders
were viewed with suspicion and marginalized as the brotherhood stuck together,
much like in the army those years. Appointments were made on the basis of
strict vetting and merit and promotions were hard earned. No one dared to
question or challenge the top “Brass” and the public had “no business
interfering with the work of the Ministry”. NGO’s were unheard of and had no
justification as “Natuurbewaring” had it all “under control”.
In 1990 Namibia gained independence from
the South African Government and this culture was inherited by the new
governing body. The management structure was now changed, and the experienced
and knowledgeable pale males had to clear their desks as cadre deployment
became the order of the day. Few remained as mentors were needed for the
transition as empowerment manifested. Those who remained found themselves in
powerful positions as advisors and mentors as the transition process leaned
heavily on their experience and expertise. Those who were replaced who took the
“Golden Handshake” early retirement/retrenchment packages had to seek new
opportunities where their skills would be relevant and valued. This led to many
of them, people like Jan Joubert, starting up Tourism Safari businesses as
tourism started growing in Namibia while some later formed NGOs.
THE ERA OF NGO’s-
GARTH OWEN SMITH-HIS BOOK “AN ARID EDEN”
AND MARGIE JACOBSON’S BOOK “LIFE IS LIKE A KUDU HORN”
As things developed and the new Ministry of
Environment and Tourism settled in and went through its settling/growing pains,
over the years capacity and resources seemed to have become increasingly
challenged and the ministry’s mandate became more and more impossible to
execute without outside/outsourced assistance. Enters the era of the NGO’s.
Some of the ex-Nature Conservation staff availed themselves and, in time, many
NGO’s were formed. The IRDNC, Integrated Rural Development and Nature
Conservation formed by Garth Owen Smith was one of many. These then joined the
umbrella body NACSO, Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations.
Funding and grants from organisations like WWF floated the financial boats of
these NGO’s and MOU’s with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) were
signed and collaborations forged. To this day this structure pretty much rules
In the beginning Garth Owen Smith’s
organisation was also faced some stonewalling from the MET as can be seen in
his book “An Arid Eden”. In time, after some lengthy and laborious
persuasion, the MET endorsed his
proposed CBNRM (Community Based Natural Resource Management) model and the
first Conservancies were registered in the early 1990’s. The NGO’s that were
“in the fold and toeing the line” now had the political clout needed to operate
and relationships with the newly formed Conservancies were forged. Although
there was some collaboration, each NGO operates independently, has its own
mission and vision, agenda and interests. Many livelihoods are dependent on the
funding these NGOs receive and a number of ex Nature Conservation employees
from the old dispensation found a home here and their knowledge and experience
stood to benefit their organisations.
These NGOs now became the advisors and
consultants of many of the Conservancies and functions like Game counts and
others that the Conservancies’ inexperienced managements needed help with were
often outsourced from/guided by said NGOs.
The books written by the late Garth Owen
Smith, “An Arid Eden”, and his partner Margie Jacobsohn, “Life is like a Kudu
Horn”, gives good perspective of the
history of the IRDNC and how it was established.
While the title of Garth’s book, an Arid
Eden, was appropriate until about 2013/14 it no longer holds true in the face
of the decimation of the wildlife in the conservancies over the last about
seven years. Someone bitterly commented that the title of the book, “Life is like a Kudu Horn”, is actually more appropriate
now since a Kudu Horn is configured like a screw and the game population in the
conservancies are “pretty screwed” right now.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEFT AND
NGO’s-EX BOKKIEWAGTERS AND LIVELIHOODS-DAISY CHAIN AND INTERDEPENDENCE
As many of the NGOs are dependent on
authorisations and permits of some kind from the MET, toeing the line as
dictated by the MET had become a pre-requisite. With-holding a researcher’s
permit or an NGOs work permits needed to operate can mean the end of the line
for that entity. Unsurprisingly therefor, bonding became essential. This
resulted in an “exclusive club” and you could decide whether you are in or out
by pledging subservience to the rules or not. This, in return, ensured
“protection of your turf” and kept annoying newcomers/outsiders out. The
previous Permanent Secretary mastered the art of directing this orchestra
through bullying tactics and strategies. It worked well! In one instance a
newcomer was accepted after arranging study grants for 2-3 MET employees
through his organisation first, a fair exchange? Mutually beneficial deals
involving funding and revenue streams sweetened the arrangement or “Daisy chain”
and in some instances a researcher would team up with a select few NGOs who have
big Tourism interests, a win-win situation of note, although in contrast with
some clear permit provisos!
NGO’s AND THEIR AGENDAS AND
This situation therefor leaves us with a
regulating body dependent on a group of supporting NGOs for the purpose of
executing the ministry’s mandate that are being run like businesses and funded
by corporate donors and sponsors in need of maximum exposure and recognition
for “fulfilling social responsibilities”. Some of the NGOs are also supported
by the private sector and more particularly, tourism operators in a mutually
beneficial arrangement which included commercial film making and the rare high
valued privilege to see collared Lions.
Hang on you say, this sounds like mud
slinging and the usual handbag in-fighting amongst conservationists in
competition. No, it is not, it needs mentioning to give perspective on why the
current status quo needs a make-over as the CBNRM model evolved negatively
being driven by self- serving outside influences.
THE OUTDATED CBNRM MANAGEMENT MODEL-NEED
FOR MAKEOVER-SHORTCOMINGS AND MAKE UP- TRIPLICATION OF WILDLIFE-BLURRING OF
LINES-HAVING CAKE AND EATING IT-LEGISLATION AND PROTECTION
When a car starts to smoke, cough, wheeze
and generally starts performing poorly, one is forced to check for the problem.
Is it the gearbox, differential, engine or electrics maybe? If it is all of the
above, you change the whole damn thing.
The CBNRM mode has been going since the
early 1990s which makes it about 26 years old. Things evolve and influences
like climate change changes the variables and essence of such a model over time
and it, inevitably at some stage, needs reviewing. Desertification, both as a
result of overgrazing and climate change has progressed to a point where so-called
traditional farming, nomadic pastoralism and even subsistence farming may no
longer be sustainable or even possible. Traditional farming, in the modern
context has reached proportions in places emulating modern commercial farming
which has no place in an unsuitable, sensitive, arid environment.
Diversification of income is much needed and no traditional, albeit
destructive, livestock farming can hold the environment hostage to its needs
any longer. All of us on this planet are going to have to adapt or, yes, die! A
sixth mass extinction is not just a rumour, the tangible evidence is there for
all to see!
The CBNRM model caters for “sustainable
use”, which includes both consumptive and non- consumptive exploitation of
resources. Currently the lines are blurred and haphazard “zoning” which is
supposed to distinguish between farming, hunting, general, wildlife and tourism
areas, is just a thought which vanishes with the first signs of a drought when
it all becomes available as “emergency grazing” areas. This of course impacts
heavily on the availability of the very scarce nutrition the Wildlife had
become dependent upon as they adapted over centuries to survive in this hostile
In many instances we have witnessed semi-nomadic
Himba pastoralists and local farmers simply ignoring the Conservancy rules and MEFT
directives by driving large numbers of cattle into ephemeral rivers and areas
“zoned” for Wildlife and Tourism. Even worse, Reed beds would be set alight in
order to induce new growth for the starving cattle with no regard to the
destruction of the environment and ecology. The Huaruseb, Hoanib and Huabrivers
in particular became linear farms in these times to the detriment of and
causing major disturbance to the Wildlife. Since the moratorium on hunting and
utilisation had been announced after it had been discovered that the Game
populations were becoming precariously low, bushmeat poaching increased which
took its toll on the few remaining animals tasked with repopulating the
conservancies in future. Allowance was made for Game to be hunted for purposes
of catering for traditional leadership meetings and in many instances the
animals could not even be found. Some Farmers openly defied the MEFT and Law
enforcement agencies during the drought and the environment paid the price as the
result. The outcome was quite predictable and is now manifesting in starving
predators and ecological systems imploding.
The question that now arises is whether
having your Cake and eating it is possible in this context? The very
environment that attracts Tourism is under siege by Agriculture, the latter
which is clearly failing and not sustainable. In the end it will be either or……
. Either the Environment will have to be protected or it will logically be
overrun and turned into the wasteland it is already fast becoming. The Ministry
of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is regularly on record stating that
the CBNRM model is so successful and serves as a role model to the rest of the
World. It claims that Wildlife had “triplicated” in numbers and that the
current lack of game in the conservancies had been solely caused by the nasty
drought…. . While it is true that game in Namibia has vastly increased over the
years, this can mostly be attributed to the commercial farm owners on freehold
land diversifying in order to survive financially and to optimize their return
on investment. This had been instrumental in building a big Hunting Industry
which contributes handsomely to the GDP. The difference being that the owners
of the game manage it like a business and carefully manage and invest in their
own stock for long term gains. The conservancies, however, being on state land,
are not managed in the same way at all and no real ownership and accountability
exists in this model. Windows of opportunity for corruption, maladministration
and mismanagement are abundant and exploited. This is sadly reflected in the statistics
regarding the high failure rate on financial audits of conservancies in Namibia
(over 84% failed?) and the current, sorry state of affairs regarding the
depleted natural resources.
All of this could not have been intentional
and a large portion of this failure could be attributed to the fact that the
management committees are simply in most cases not equipped to run these
“Parks”. Office bearers in responsible positions in many instances do not have
the knowledge, experience, acumen and training to execute their portfolios. I
do not fix my own plumbing as I would flood the house and possibly the town,
therefore I outsource a Plumber for that purpose. I also do not perform Heart
surgery as I am not qualified to do so. The same holds true here and it is
expected of these people to perform such tasks up to the same standards as a
highly qualified National Parks management structure would deliver? Oh, hang
on, there are many NGOs advising and assisting said Conservancies…. ? Now
therein lies the problem. Different agendas, interests, missions and visions
and in many cases the exact same lack of knowledge, training, experience etc.
and so forth exists within these NGOs. No, badmouthing them is not the purpose,
merely stating the facts here. A lot of confusion and the evident failure of
the current status quo being reflected in the affairs of the conservancies and
state of the environment bears witness to this. Also, after 26 years, if
properly empowered, surely the conservancies would have been able to function
effectively and independently by now?
us face the brutal truth, without insulting any party, the CBNRM model needs a
make-over of note and the drawing board beckons while time runs out!
In our humble opinion, the example of
Africa Parks, set in Africa over the past years as a turnaround specialist is
very relevant. In order to optimize Wildlife and Tourism areas these have to be
identified and clear boundaries defined to begin with. It should then be
gazetted as such, whether as concession area or proclaimed protected area,
either way it must emerge with a status properly protected by legislation and
through law enforcement. Farming, general and hunting areas (the latter clearly
not bordering the protected areas) should be clearly zoned with clear
distinction from the protected areas. This would have the advantage that vast
areas with huge potential like the breath-taking area between the Ugabriver and
the Southern Veterinary fence boundary along the Bergsig/Springbokwasser gate
road including the whole Huab valley can then enjoy the same protection as the
Palmwag concession area and even be integrated with the latter. This will mean
that instead of being a free for all area exploited and damaged by all
currently, it can be developed by concession holders and investors and run like
a park by custodians charged with managing Human Wildlife Conflict, security
and anti-poaching and maintenance while optimizing revenue, creating job
opportunities, skills-development and welfare for the Conservancy communities.
The aim should be proper mentorship and development with clear goal posts
ultimately enabling absolute empowerment over a period. Palmwag concession has
proven its success with Gondwana lodge and the Hoanibriver Wilderness Lodge
contributing substantially to the conservancy coffers. The wheel in this
instance, does not need to be re-invented but merely copied and pasted by
including more protected areas.
Land use guidance and assistance to
subsistence farmers enabling diversification to ensure food security while
downscaling livestock farming to provide sustenance instead of being managed as
a “traditional currency” will be of paramount importance. Considering what the
Israelis harvest from their equally arid Desert there is no shortage of options
that should be investigated and developed. Education and training will be key. Continuing
on the same destructive path currently followed in the name of “traditional
livestock farming” will be short lived considering the progressive
desertification and change and is not negotiable really.
THE DROUGHT AND POOR MANAGEMENT-RESULTS
IN PROTECTED AREAS VERSUS CONSERVANCIES
Good rains on and off had been experienced
between 2007 and 2012 and it was a “time of abundance” during which the
predators, a good barometer of the health of an ecosystem, and their prey
species had multiplied to a point considered as being well balanced. Game
counts, for such an arid environment with below 150 mm of rain falls per year,
were impressive. This was, however, clearly the end of a “boom cycle” and a dry
cycle was to be expected as per the normal and natural ebb and flow trending of
“seven fat and seven lean years” as a well-known, historical phenomena.
The quotas released for the “sustainable” utilisation
of the game were unprecedented and overly generous but according to those
responsible for the game counts, justifiable. People like the well- known
environmentalist Christiaan Bakkes and
myself frowned upon this and we made our disgust publicly known at the time. We encountered Zebras
that were clearly wounded and left to die in the “Red line” veterinarian fence near
Palmwag during one cull of 70 Hartmann Mountain Zebra and Christiaan Bakkes’
article in the Namibian newspaper, titled “End of the Game” described the waste
and massacre on the Giribes Plains amongst other similar cases of
indiscriminate plundering (as per his book “Plunderwoestyn”). This earned him an
end to his long career in the Tourism industry in Namibia due to the
traditional leaders and Chiefs’ wrath incurred.
Not very long after this, filling hunting
quotas started to become problematic as the number of animals available simply
did not match the numbers on the permits anymore. Hunters started to abandon
concessions due to non-viability and the question arose, “where are the
animals?”. A Moratorium on Shoot and Sell and own use was hurriedly imposed as
late as 2017 and after confronting those NGOs responsible for the game counts, we
were “confidentially” told that the scientific formula used for the estimation
of the game numbers had been found to have been flawed and hence optimistically
With no means of putting the Toothpaste
back into the tube, the damage had been done and we witnessed the resultant
sharp escalation of Human Lion Conflict in these areas from 2014/15 onwards. As
a consequence, this had a big impact on Lion mortalities through poisoning and
shooting by retaliating farmers. In one single incident a Lioness pregnant with
four fully developed and ready to be born, cubs was shot and killed.
When comparing the variance in Predator/Prey
ratios in protected areas, i.e. Palmwag concession, Etosha Park etc. versus the
same in the conservancies, the contrast is shocking. The conclusion can only be
that management, or the lack of it, should be held responsible since the
protected areas had gone through the exact same ordeal caused by the drought.
It has become apparent that, when “sustainable utilisation” quotas were
calculated no, or inadequate provision had been made for Predator requirements,
loss of game to poaching and disease/natural causes and that no contingency/allowance
had been made for core herds needed to repopulate the areas once the wet/boom
cycle begins. The results were clearly starving predators and Human Lion
Conflict escalating to an all-time high. Whenever Humans upset the equilibrium
in nature, Newton’s Law comes into play…..
THE TURNAROUND AND SOLUTION-MANAGEMENT,
BENEFITS-AFRICAN PARKS-REVERSING HABITAT SHRINKAGE-% OF LAND UNDER
“CONSERVATION”-SUCCESS CLAIMS BY MEFT
While it is good and well for the MEFT (Ministry
of Environment, Forestry and Tourism) to boast that about 43% of land in
Namibia is under conservation, the question arises as to how the land outside
of protected areas in this category is being managed and why the disastrous results
and outcome. Having huge areas under conservation devoid of Wildlife due to
poor or inadequate, inefficient management may look good statistically but in
real terms defeats the object. It is common knowledge that the habitat of Lions
in Africa has shrunk by about 80% over that last decades and the same holds
true for the Kunene region, formerly known as Damara and Kaokoland. Where Lions
used to roam from the Ugabriver in the South right up to the Marienfluss in the
North, barring few Lions, most now only occur in the protected Palmwag
concession area. Recently the whole Huabriver Lion population had to be
translocated to a sanctuary due to starvation and more will follow. It would
make more sense to identify areas in Conservancies ideal for Wildlife and
Tourism and convert those to “Park-like concessions” with the appropriate
legislative and statutory protection surely?
A Perfect example of such successful
turnaround endeavours is that of African Parks. So far, they have taken over
management of about nineteen Parks in Africa in countries where conservation
had failed in totality. Their successes in Liuwa Plains and other parks speak
for itself. Not only do they manage the parks but the positive effects of their
Human Wildlife Conflict management, anti-poaching, skills development, job
creation, community welfare and upliftment etc. has made a huge, positive
impact on the lives of those living in close proximity to the parks as well as
conservation. By employing experts and applying sound principles, management
plans and strategies their story is one of success. It simply cannot be
expected that the same results could be obtained by incapable, inexperienced
locals advised by a a mix of, own interest driven NGOs on a hit and miss basis.
The shockingly low game counts leading to the current disastrous ecological
imbalances in the conservancies bears witness to this. The rather desperate,
urgent last-minute efforts by the MEFT to outsource the services of a consultant/advisor
unfortunately casts doubt on their grip on the situation and gives the
impression that they may be at the end of their tether…
The reality is that it is very late in the
day and if Namibia is serious about continuing on the path towards successful
conservation of its natural heritage, no amount of political correctness will
We need to accept that things are wrong,
learn from past mistakes and take some concrete action, even if unpopular in
some circles. One cannot simply put a Band aid on a bullet wound. The solutions
are there and need to be expeditiously implemented. For this, Political Will is
required first and foremost. Own interests/livelihoods, egos and needs will
have to take a back seat. Much like the climate change phenomena where some
drastic changes are needed to bring down CO2 emissions which involve sacrifices
and a paradigm shift, conservation has also arrived at a clear crossroad.
In hindsight, the words of Chris Bakkes may
have proven to be prophetic, this could indeed be the “End of the Game” unless
acted upon with urgency….. .
would be sad to see the CBNRM model, Garth-Owen Smith’s lifelong dream, disappear
in the Desert dust….