Dogged by allegations of bribery and unethical operators, a dodgy permitting system, and the contentious hunting of so-called "problem animals" – Namibia’s hunting community has now been forced into silence by its own government.
The country’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism has released a memorandum that prohibits the posting of hunted dead animals on social media. The memorandum calls the practice of taking pictures of hunters posing with trophies, not of hunting itself, “unethical”, raising concerns as to what exactly the Namibian government is trying to hide.
“To deprive a hunter of bragging rights will simply turn him elsewhere,” says Izak Smit of Desert Lions Human Relations Aid. “Instead the MET should ensure proper regulation and control of hunting… and cleanse the industry of unethical operators that target high value iconic rare species like desert elephants and lions,” he explains.
Despite the Namibian Professional Hunting Association publicly supporting the policy and calling on their members to do the same, the requirement has not gone down well with parties on either side. Pro-hunters have defended their right to market hunts on social media, saying that the statement bows down to anti-hunters while others say that this just allows the department to conduct a barbaric slaughter of lions and wildlife in secrecy. According to the Professional Hunting Association, “Namibia cannot afford any opposition to hunting.”
The memorandum specifically prohibits hunters with valid permits from posting or sending photographs on public platforms, by making this a permit condition. However, this memorandum appears unenforceable.
“For now we believe that this is the right thing to do and we optimistic that hunters and safaris will adhere to this moral issue in the absence of a legal backing. We are counting on everyone’s goodwill,” says the department.
The department tried to pass a similar motion in 2017 which would enforce permit conditions that prohibited all marketing of trophy hunting on the internet. However, this was shot down by Professional Hunting Association as they said that “advertising is critical for such businesses”.
The memorandum comes on the back of a social media backlash following the recent killing of another desert-adapted lion by the MET, as well as a number of allegations that members of the ministry are personally pocketing funds from trophy hunting. The killing of the iconic lion, Gretzky, caused a widespread social media call to boycott Namibia as a tourism destination.
“The skin and bones and claws also seem to have vanished into thin air even though the MET’s own personnel dealt with it,” says Smit.
* Published courtesy of the Conservation Action Trust.