Namibia has a wildlife conservation program that is the envy of Africa. Poachers stand little chance when the whole community is protecting wildlife.
There are no success stories of wildlife conservation in Africa to match that of Namibia. The country was once nearly void of all big game, with the animals having been poached and slaughtered out of existence, often by the people who lived directly with them.
The wildlife was owned by the government, with the people having no say and no control over the situation. Why should they be concerned with what happened to the animals, when the animals were seen as competitors?
But when Namibia gained independence from colonial rule in 1990, things changed dramatically. Conservation was written into the new Constitution. Ownership of the wildlife was handed over to the communities that lived with it. Poachers became wildlife protectors, and communities became conservancies.
Now the people have a vested interest in coexisting with and managing their wildlife.
The key has been direct communal ownership of wildlife. As a result, the animal population has increased dramatically. The human population has also increased. And yet rather than viewing wildlife as a competitor, the people are coexisting with it.
Animal/human conflicts still occur, but they are dealt with in the spirit of management. Rather than seeing an elephant or a rhino as a quick money-making entity for the taking (or poaching), the people now see it with a long term vision, as something with long term value.
Tourism and trophy hunting bring in money that helps Namibians, which in turn supports further wildlife management conservation and social programs.
Poaching has dwindled, and where it does occur poachers have a tough go of it, often being caught shortly after their crimes are committed. A community with many more eyes and ears sees to that.
The people have become true stewards of the wildlife.
Where once the landscape was barren of wildlife, now it is full. Namibia has the world's largest cheetah population. It is one of the few places in Africa where the rhino population is flourishing. Lions are coming back strong. And the people have education, clean water and a brighter future.
Now if they could only export their model to other countries of Africa, imagine what the continent might become again.
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