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Namibia

Overview

  • Continent
    Africa
  • Species
    African elephant, Black rhino, White rhino

Located in southern Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, Namibia consists of 200 million acres of ocean shores, woodland savannas, lush floodplains and picturesque deserts. It is a relatively new country, having achieved its independence in 1990.

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government gave people living in communal areas the opportunity to manage their natural resources through the creation of communal conservancies. These conservancies – as well as governments, nonprofit organizations and other entities – have restored populations of lions, cheetahs, black rhinos, zebras and other native wildlife to the world’s richest dry land. Through initiatives, such as ecotourism, restoration has generated sustainable income for their communities.

Zebras make Africa's longest land migration

In a groundbreaking study, a WWF-led team discovered Africa’s longest land mammal migration. The migration of Plains (or Burchell's) Zebra stretches from Namibia to Botswana—a distance of more than 300 miles roundtrip.

zebras in grass

Species

Namibia Elephant

Namibia’s plankton-rich coastal waters support an extraordinary array of marine life, including an increasing number of southern right whales. Further inland, springbok, gemsbok and black-faced impala have all seen multifold increases in population. Namibia boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhino in Africa, and the largest cheetah population in the world.

Namibia is also home to a unique population of elephants that have adapted to the arid climate. Found mostly in the northwest part of the country, these "desert-adapted" elephants can go for days without drinking water by surviving on moisture obtained from the vegetation they eat. Although not a different subspecies of savannah elephants, they have several adaptations to their desert environment, including larger feet, which make it easier to walk through sand, and smaller herd sizes, which puts less pressure on their food and water sources.

People & Communities

Namibia People and communities

Isabella Kasupi is a community development advisor for the Puros Conservancy in Kunene, Namibia.

More than two million people, the majority of Namibia’s population, live in the northern part of the country. Among Namibia’s 14 ethnic groups, 26 different languages are spoken. The communal conservancy movement, which links conservation to poverty alleviation through sustainable use of natural resources, is a key development strategy for rural Namibia. Approximately one in four rural Namibians now belongs to a registered conservancy.

Namibian women have traditionally been excluded from natural resource management. WWF works with our Namibian partners to change this. Women now make up 35 percent of conservancy committee members, including three committee chairs and the majority of conservancy treasurers. As a result, women are receiving a larger share of benefits and exerting a growing influence over resource management and community development.

“When WWF came to Namibia, community management of wildlife as an economic asset was a revolutionary idea. As people began to benefit socioeconomically, the idea turned into a powerful incentive for community conservation.”

Chris Weaver Managing Director, Namibia Program

Threats

Namibia

Here conservancy members inspect a local farmer’s field, which was raided by elephants. Conservancies record the damage and use it as a basis for compensation.

Competing for Land and Water Use

Development in Namibia is linked to its natural resources: land, water, minerals and wildlife. Agriculture, mining and tourism are the backbone of Namibia’s economy. They also compete for the right to use limited water and land resources. In this dry landscape, water is vitally important, and sustainable water use is a big challenge. The communal conservancy program has demonstrated that wildlife provides economic benefits, but this system must be recognized by national policy makers to be as significant as livestock or crops. Without this national support, Namibia’s land is at risk of being developed unsustainably.

Conflict between People and Wildlife

Human and Wildlife Conflicts

Conflict with wildlife remains a concern where agriculture shares land with wildlife. Namibia’s conservation efforts have helped increase wildlife populations—particularly large animals such as elephants and predators like cheetahs. As these populations grow and their ranges expand, they come into more frequent contact with communities. Farmers see significant losses when elephants raid crops, break down fences and water tanks, or when predators kill livestock.

Increasing temperatures and inconsistent rainfall are two impacts that place further pressure on natural resources. Areas receiving less rainfall will most likely suffer drought and fires, while other areas will face more frequent floods of greater magnitude. Such changes will make agriculture difficult and reduce productivity. It will also lead to increased problems with wildlife as fewer resources mean animals push into human settlements.

What WWF Is Doing

Namibia

Local women making handicraft goods to be sold in the Mashi craft center of the Mayuni Conservancy. The sale of the goods is a valuable source of income.

WWF’s work in Namibia focuses on supporting their communal conservancy program—a successful model for balancing the needs of people and wildlife. We partner with local communities to help them manage their natural resources and ensure a future that includes healthy wildlife populations and sustainable economic growth. Today, there is a direct relationship between the health of wildlife populations and prosperity of local communities. As a result, poaching has declined dramatically and there are now restored populations of numerous species. Building off of the success of the conservancy program, we now partner with governments and other entities to conserve biodiversity across large landscapes made up of conservancies, national parks, other state-managed protected areas, and private land.

Conservation Beyond Borders

In August 2011, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed a treaty to pool their resources and reach across their borders in the name of conservation. The result is an enormous conservation area shared by all five countries called KAZA, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Some of Africa’s greatest natural treasures—including the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls—are found here as well as nearly half of Africa’s elephants. This cross-border collaboration addresses the urgent threats of poaching and climate change and potentially allows wildlife to expand its range.

WWF will use the experience gained by supporting Namibia’s successful conservancy program to help communities and governments manage their resources better, assist in the development of the area as a tourist destination, and help create corridors that give wildlife the freedom to roam. As communities begin to improve the management of their own resources, there will be more opportunities for jobs and sources of income.

Leopard, Namibia

Improving Livelihoods

Namibia’s communal conservancy program aims to improve the livelihoods of rural people through the sustainable use of natural resources. WWF continues to support this program, so that local communities see the value of wildlife and benefit from maintaining healthy populations of species.

Protecting Species

Namibia Protecting Species

WWF works closely with the Namibian government and other partners to monitor, research and protect its wildlife. We have worked together to develop innovative new transmitters to track rhino movements. We also have provided antipoaching tools and technology, such as a rhino hotline, to protect them against poaching. The SMS hotline allows individuals who are aware of rhino poaching to contact authorities safely and anonymously. WWF also assists the government in monitoring the rhino population of Etosha National Park, the largest stronghold for black rhinos in Africa.

Connecting Ecosystems

Namibia Elephant Fence

Elephant fence next to the West Caprivi Game Strip.

We have used satellite collars to study the movements of numerous animals and better understand the connectivity of ecosystems within KAZA, an enormous conservation area shared by five countries. This information has helped the government and communal conservancies identify priority areas to protect as animal movement corridors.

Studying the movement and habitat requirements of large predators – such as lions, spotted hyena, wild dogs and crocodiles – helps to better mitigate human-wildlife conflict and gives communities the knowledge to better understand how to coexist with these species. For example, tracking elephant movements within Namibia’s Caprivi Strip is revealing the impact of fences, roads and other barriers on elephant movement. This information is critical to effective long-term planning within KAZA.

Mitigating Human-Wildlife Conflicts

WWF works hard to increase community understanding of wildlife as an important natural resource worth conserving. We help mitigate conflict through simple methods, such as repellants around fields, enclosures for livestock, and protective walls around water sources. We also work with partners to create alternative water sources away from home and farming areas in order to reduce damage from elephants seeking water. Our work includes creating incentives for people to coexist with wildlife, such as income from ecotourism.

Growing Ecotourism

Lions, elephants, rhinos and cheetahs roam Namibia’s conservancy lands. To foster a growing ecotourism economy within conservancies, WWF helps find investors and offers business training to conservancy members. Joint venture lodges and campsites provide the largest overall source of benefits to conservancies. Tourism creates employment and fosters a variety of other sources of revenue, such as craft markets.

Adapting to Climate Change

WWF and its partners help farmers prepare for climate change through the use of conservation agriculture and indigenous plant harvesting. We work to create sources of water for wildlife away from areas used by people. And we support communal conservancies as they build a network of connected land for wildlife to move freely in response to climate change.

Projects

  • Conserving Wildlife and Enabling Communities in Namibia

    Namibia is home to an array of wildlife, from ostriches and zebras roaming the gravel plains to penguins and seals chilling in the Atlantic currents. It was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. With WWF’s help, the government has reinforced this conservation philosophy by empowering its communities with rights to manage and benefit from the country’s wildlife through communal conservancies.

Experts

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