Conservation of Namibia’s Ecosystems

Conservation within Namibia is a big cornerstone for the maintenance in order to offer an outstanding Tourism experience. One thing locals are very proud of is that Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government has reinforced this by giving its communities the opportunity and rights to manage their wildlife and surroundings through communal conservancies. There was a moderate increase in the area of biomes and vegetation zones under conservation management during the time this Blog has been compiled. According to Travel News Namibia, 44 per cent of Namibia’s landmass was classified as being under conservation management, through (1) Protected areas on state land, (2) Tourism Concessions, (3) Private game reserves and Freehold Conservancies, (4) Community Forests and (5) Communal Conservancies, The protected area network expanded by 28,983km2 (or 8.8 per cent) from 2010-2013, with the bulk of this being an increase in the coverage of the acacia savannah and broad-leafed savannah biomes through the expansion of the communal conservancy and community forestry programmes. There were also a number of other significant developments with regard to the protected area network:

The Bwabwata – Okavango was officially proclaimed as a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance in 2013. It covers an area of 46,964 hectares and is located in north-eastern Namibia in the Kavango East Region. The site supports one of the highest diversities of species in the Zambezian Flooded Savannas Eco-region.

The Namib Sand Sea was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2013. A National Viability Assessment of Man and Biosphere Reserves in Namibia was also completed in 2014.

The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) was formally established in 2011, and with an area of 440,000km2, is the world’s largest TFCA. It covers the Mudumu, Mangetti National Parks, Bwabwata, Mamili, Khaudum, as well as the Zambezi State Forest and conservancies and community forests around these protected areas, and is shared by Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

• As part of efforts to institute collaborative management of conservation areas, five Protected Landscape Conservation Areas (PLCAs) – .pdf were established. Each PLCA has an existing State Protected Area at its core as well as adjacent communal conservancies, community forests and private reserves/land areas. The PLCAs comprise a total area of 92,392km2.

• Namibia identified and submitted four proposals for Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) at the current moment.

     + Trends in Species Diversity

Image: Sustainable Resource Management Areas of Namibia by NRWG&WWF.

• Plant specimens: The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) continues to collect and store seed, herbarium specimens and data of threatened, rare, endemic and useful plants. The most recent evaluation of about 1,450 of Namibia’s plant species has shown that 40 (2.75 per cent) fall into the threatened categories according to the IUCN system (NBRI 2014), however it is believed that this is an underestimate as not enough is known about all plant populations in the country and most of these evaluations were not based on intensive fieldwork.

• Wildlife: Namibia completed a Large Carnivore Atlas in 2012 covering six large carnivore species, and compared its results with the previous Large Carnivore Atlas of 2004. Species estimates were higher for all species with cheetahs, lions, wild dogs and leopards estimates doubling the previous estimates. Annual game counts, in which a combination of foot patrols, vehicle-based counts and aerial monitoring are combined, continue to be undertaken at the same time every year. Important wildlife recoveries have been observed in the Zambezi Region, which is Namibia’s most biodiversity-rich region, as well as in the sparsely populated, arid and largely pristine Kunene Region in the north-west.

• Fish / Marine Resources: State of Stocks Reviews were completed in 2011 and 2012 for the shared, commercially utilized, living marine resources in the Namibian BCLME Region (.pdf). The Reviews divided species and or stocks into crustacean, demersal, tuna-like species, small pelagic and others.

• Bird species: In 2014, Birdlife International estimated that 592 species of bird species occur in Namibia. 544 of these species are classified as “least concern”, while approximately 5 per cent or 28 of these species are considered globally threatened. In Namibia, almost all birds are protected under the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975. Wetland bird counts are conducted twice per year (once in summer and once in winter) as part of the International Waterbird Census.

• Other diverse Taxa: Unfortunately, very limited information is available on insects, invertebrates, micro-organisms, arachnids, amphibians and reptiles. There is a need to improve taxonomic research on these groups in Namibia. The populations of invertebrates, arachnids, insects, reptiles and amphibians were described for the Namib Sand Sea World Heritage Site.

• Implications for local Human Well-Being – The adaptive management and sustainable utilization of natural resources, particularly fisheries, wildlife and forest resources, based on scientific and participatory resource monitoring methods, is increasing in Namibia. Overall, this is considered to be leading to an improved state of biodiversity in the country with positive impacts on human well-being, livelihoods and poverty reduction. The CBNRM Programme is particularly demonstrating how the sustainable management of biodiversity can enhance socio-economic development. It is also driving the increased beneficiation and involvement of rural communities in the rapidly growing tourism sector. The degraded state of Namibia’s rangelands is a major concern, as these cover an estimated 71 per cent of the total landmass (Mendelsohn 2006). Soil fertility is also considered to be declining in the crop-growing subsistence agriculture areas of Northern Namibia. Population pressure, poor management practices, increasing climatic variability and the clearance of land are among the drivers of this situation.

     + 9 Conservation Projects in Namibia welcoming Volunteers

If you have an open heart for all things regarding conservation for the Namibian Fauna and Flora ecosystem then here are some nice options of Projects who are always looking for volunteers joining the Team and help-out with the cause at hand. So, in no specific ranking order (click Project Name to be taken directly to Website):

• The Kwando Carnivore Project: The Kwando Carnivore Project is based in the Zambezi Region and works on applied research and conservation of large carnivores in the Zambezi and Kavango Regions. Fieldwork takes place in the protected areas as well as the conservancies of the Mudumu Complexes. Conflict efforts include building lion-proof kraals to protect cattle from lions that move outside of park boundaries.  We also use mobile kraals to protect cattle that are left outside to graze on harvested fields at night. The Project’s field work includes regular spoor and camera trap surveys in order to monitor the large carnivore populations of the Zambezi and Kavango Regions.

• The Mountain Zebra Project (.pdf): The aim of the Mountain Zebra Project is to promote the study of mountain zebras for scientifically based population management and as a flagship species for wider ecosystem conservation in Namibia. Like many large mammals in human-dominated landscapes, mountain zebras have a complex relationship with people. They are a threatened sub-species and in places suffer from unsustainable exploitation, but they can also become locally abundant and cause overgrazing, particularly in the arid, fragile habitats that are typical of most of their range in Namibia and where their natural predators have been reduced or eliminated.

• Vultures Namibia Project: Vultures Namibia Project is a non-profit organization, staffed by volunteers. The project on commercial farms involves the farmer, his family and workers and brings the plight of vultures to the notice of these people. This project has been very successful because it involves the people living on the land and is a ‘hands-on’ project.

• World Wildlife Fund Venture Namibia: This project builds on the support that NNF has provided to conservancies in Kunene south and Erongo through helping to identify and establish such payment schemes. Two of the payment schemes and associated actions are (1) Setting up a transparent and effective payment mechanism which will allow tourists and lodge operators to make a voluntary donation towards mitigation of damage caused by wild animals such as elephant and (2) focusing on creating awareness around HWC in conservancies for tourists visiting lodges.

• Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ): The main objective of this project is to strengthen NNF support activities to CBNRM. Specifically the project focuses on consolidating the support to conservancies in the areas where NNF is already active by supporting the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the conservancies and the community forests to be compliant for CBNRM, to ensure a process of value chain development, which will allow an income increase for communities as well as strengthening their resilience to the effects of climate change through climate change adaptation.

• Community Conservation Fisheries in KAZA: Community-based management of river and floodplain fisheries in rivers and floodplains in the Upper Zambezi, Chobe and Okavango catchments in Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. The purpose of the project is to contribute to environmental conservation and to improve socio-economic benefits and food security, especially for women, children and the rural poor through capacity building and the development of regional and international networking platforms.

• Naankuse: Their mission is to conserve the land, cultures and wildlife of Namibia, Africa. We aim to achieve this by encouraging participation, education and innovative activity. This is a very recommendable Organisation who go all out and always have space for people interested in a broader spectrum of wildlife and more. Also, one can adopt an endangered Naankuse Animal trough their donation programs. Double thumbs up if you can put that on your CV…

• Wolwedans: The core objective of Wolwedans is to support the NamibRand Nature Reserve in its mission to safeguard and restore the pro-Namib ecosystem. NamibRand Nature Reserve’s biodiversity and habitats are effectively managed through active monitoring and innovative, adaptive management approaches. These guys at Wolwedans are also serious trailblazers in regards to conservation. A very professional and much-loved organisation of locals and internationals alike.

• Namibia Wildlife Conservation & Sanctuary: The Namibia wildlife sanctuary is fully devoted to caring for sick and orphaned animals and to supplying them with habitats which are as natural as possible. They may come to the sanctuary from many different sources; some are tame animals that the owners can no longer look after, others may have been found trapped in snares or rescued from poachers intending to sell them. The sanctuary does all it can to release these animals back into the wild, but unfortunately, this is not always possible, so that they are provided with the best possible home for the rest of their lives. P.S. Also situated at Naankuse.

     …in essence…

Namibians are living with wildlife like they are Neighbours connected with Nature, including predators and large mammals, and are managing their natural resources wisely. Worth noting is that in 2009, community-based natural resource management generated over N$ 42 million in income to rural Namibians. All the while, these listed programs are facilitating a remarkable recovery of Namibian wildlife.

Namibia now boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world and is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions. Conservation here in Namibia is on top of our list and we would love to keep it that way as far as possible. Previous Research shows that Namibia’s elephant population more than doubled between 1995 and 2008 from 7,500 to over 16,000 individuals (more up to date statistics available soon). This remarkable turnaround has led some to call Namibia’s conservation efforts the greatest African wildlife recovery story ever told…. and we are very proud of this fact.

However, regarding most of the above-mentioned Projects love to invite volunteers for some side-by-side help to protect these delicate environments and ecosystems for our future generations to enjoy. Very much loved experience for Biologist and Vets the world around. Give any of the above-listed Organisations/Projects a call or email if you would love to get a hands-down practical experience which is not available in any scholar text-books. Please Note: Listed are only nine Conservation Projects within Namibia inside this Blog Post! Many more great Projects can be found Online.

Images owned by listed Projects/Organisations

• Also, read our past Blog Post regarding Bush Encroachment in Namibia.

• For international Visitors wanting to know more, have a look at our Post regarding Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.

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