Safari 2018 #56 Some thoughts on the Caprivi.

by david on November 15, 2019

I am happy to say some of these issues have been addressed and a few things have improved.  There is still much to be done.


A few thoughts on the Caprivi


It was just four short years ago when I first visited the Caprivi, or the Zambezi Region as it was recently renamed.  That trip was one of the best trips ever. The people were friendly and game, including elephants, were plentiful. There were few tourist lodges and only a handful of villages when I was there in 2014.  It was a mostly untouched paradise. As we drove first to Lusese and then to Bamunu, I was stunned to see many more villages, people and thousands of head of cattle. It seems the Caprivi has been victimized by its own success.  The giving animals’ value and sharing the value with the locals was working perfectly. The people were living better than ever and protecting the animals. The animals were flourishing and there were plenty of them. There are still lots of animals, except, as we found out, for elephants.  One would immediately think the elephants had been shot out, but that would be incorrect. Their absence was due to several contributing factors and I will touch on a few as I see them.

The first would perhaps be greed.  The locals got used to the money generated from hunting the animals and pressured the government for increased quota.  The quota was increased, but only by a few animals. The leaders of the concessions then pushed the outfitters to prepay for the elephants on quota as part of the concession leasing agreement.  In itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but the unintended result of that was. Previously, only a few animals were prepaid for and the outfitter’s hunters had no trouble taking those animals and paying the hunter’s trophy or “own use” fees at the end of the hunt.  The rest of the elephant on quota were still hunted and, if successful, the fees were paid to the outfitter and passed on to the concessions themselves. If the hunters were not successful, no fees were due to the outfitter and concession. With the prepaying of quota, the fees were due to the concessions whether the hunter was successful or not.  If the hunter was not successful, he did not owe any fees to the outfitter and the outfitter was out the fees he paid to the concession. This put enormous pressure on the outfitter for his hunters to be successful. They had to be successful or the outfitter would go bankrupt paying for game and not being able to recoup the cost. Hunting tactics changed.  Previously, sanctuary areas in the concessions were not harassed. Now, they were no longer off-limits and the pressure simply ran the elephants off. That led to fewer animals being shot and fewer fees being paid to the outfitter and the outfitters continued to hemorrhage cash. It was and still is a vicious cycle.

The wealth also meant more people wanted to move to the concessions area to take advantage of the monies paid to its citizens as well as improved roads, schools, wells, electricity, and everything else the value of the animals generated.  With no banks or repositories to keep the extra cash, the villagers did as they have always done — bought livestock. In Africa, livestock, especially cattle, mean wealth. The more cattle you have, the wealthier you are. Increased numbers of people and livestock meant more developed land and less wild land for the animals.  This lead to more wildlife and human conflict. Elephants were particularly a problem. They require vast amounts of land and the food that comes along with it. Elephants also have a propensity to go where elephants want to go, through the cattle fences, new villages, new crop fields, and anywhere they were a nuisance. The direct result of that was people became less tolerant and pushed the leaders to have the government to declare the elephant’s problem animals, allowing them to be shot, putting even more pressure on the elephants to move to other places.  The end result very few people hunting the concession found any elephants to hunt.

There are plenty of elephants in Namibia, but they are smart and know where to live without being shot at.  In some instances, concessions allowing only a very few elephants to be hunted on an annual basis are covered up with them.  These concessions are still sparsely populated and people/livestock/elephant interaction is not a problem at the moment. I don’t know how long that will last.  In my humble opinion, the concession’s managers and leaders in the Caprivi need to rethink the way things are done. There needs to be dramatically reduced quotas for the next several years.  Prepaid or guaranteed quotas need to be eliminated altogether. There need to be wildlife-only areas and the cattle and villagers need to be kept out. The game scouts should be able to charge the villagers who trespass or allow the owners of trespassing livestock to be charged the same way they can charge a hunter for not obeying the rules.  Wildlife biologists need to be employed to educate the villages and their leaders about living wildlife in a mutually beneficial way. These same biologists, by living in the area, will be able to determine the correct number of animals to be placed on a hunting quota.

I would most likely be planning another hunt to the Caprivi in the future.  I will, however, do some research to see if the practice of too many animals being on quota has stopped and the animals on quota are actually there to be hunted and not just a number on a piece of paper.  I am very afraid that without some corrective measures the phenomenal hunting area that was the Caprivi will be lost forever, a victim of its own success.


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