When Namibia gained its independence in 1990, there were many wounds to heal and issues to address. From poverty alleviation to government institutions to language and education, the country was deeply involved in the basics of ‘nation building.’ But Namibians didn’t fight long and hard for their Independence without a deep respect for the future – and this includes respect for and protection of the environment. Namibia was the first African country – and indeed one of the first countries in the world – to make protection of the environment a key part of its constitution. Namibia’s progressive conservation policies don’t stop at the top; they include other policies that involve local people in the protection of the land, wildlife and other natural resources.
People are living with wildlife, including predators and large mammals, and are managing their natural resources wisely. They are also reaping the benefits. In 2009, community-based natural resource management generated over N$ 42 million in income to rural Namibians. All the while, the program is facilitating a remarkable recovery of wildlife.
A recent article by NPR in the U.S. offered this analogy, "It's as though the U.S. government said to the people who live around Yellowstone National Park, You know what? All those wild animals in the park — the grizzlies, the bison, the wolves — they belong to you." - Christopher Joyce, NPR
Human-wildlife conflict has become a common problem in most southern African countries. Beginning tomorrow, conservationists Ian McCallum and Ian Michler will undertake a long journey through six Southern Africa Development Community countries to highlight the success and failures of the human-animal interface across the region. Namibia has taken a leadership role when it comes to creating effective policies for managing human-wildlife conflict. According to McCallum, ""Namibia is regarded as a conservation success of SADC, because of organisations such as the IRDNC."
To learn more about Namibia's innovative approach to conservation visit http://www.namibiatourism.com.na/conservation/
What is so significant about the fact that 42% of Namibia’s land is under conservation management?
This shows real commitment to conservation, management and sustainable utilization of natural resources as per the Namibian constitution. It is pushing boundaries and standing out amongst the rest. It is important to recognise that all natural resource based production systems depend on the functioning of the ecosystems for their performance, including the fisheries, agriculture and forestry sectors, which are all key pillars of Namibia's economy therefore, seen in this light, 42%
becomes very significant indeed.What does this mean to conservation?
This is a real a plus to conservation, it shows adaptive management, it shows co-management and it shows the commitment and passion of the Namibian people towards their environment and their land. It means working towards achieving and maintaining that balance between conservation and sustainable use and making sure that the environment and nature is respected, managed and sustainably utilized. Conservation is not only the responsibility of government but of all Namibians and this has been demonstrated as that 42%
is managed by a variety of stakeholders all in the interest of long term sustainability.How has conservation impacted local communities?
As a country we have gained worldwide reputation for our innovative approach of linking conservation to poverty alleviation through our communal area conservancy program
and pro-poor tourism initiatives. This is founded on the dynamic policy adjustment that devolved rights of wildlife and tourism to many of Namibia's most marginalised and poorest communities. These rights have provided local communities with unprecedented incentives to manage and conserve their areas and wildlife, which have resulted in mass recoveries of wildlife populations outside national parks and reduced poaching throughout Namibia.Does 42% make a difference to tourist experience?
The 42 %
land under some form of conservation management has unlocked enormous tourism development opportunities especially in communal lands, and this has definitely increased the tourist experience. Culture and human interaction at a personal level has increased, amazing adventures have been unlocked. This 42 % of land combines wildlife, unique landscapes all set within majestic and unspoiled wilderness and together it is making Namibia potentially one of the most competitive tourism destinations
in the world! What next? Will we be able to say 45% or 48% of Namibian is under conservation management in the coming years or is there a danger that it could slip backwards?
All indications are that there is no return, there is always something new out of Namibia and perhaps new innovation based on the best practice generated since Independence may indeed lead to us seeing this number increases.
Namibia is a long, long haul destination, from many parts of the world, but once the plane lands, adventures in Namibia don’t require another flight. All you need is an international driver’s license, a good map and a strong desire to explore. Namibia’s infrastructure is well established, its people are friendly and the combination lends itself to self-exploration. Fill up a sedan car or a 4x4 and off you go!
The country has a vast, well-maintained road network with international links to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia; cell phone coverage that spans virtually the entire country; and accommodation that varies from community-based campsites to five star luxury.
English is the widely-spoken official language, and many Namibians also speak German, so many visitors Europeans find the country easy to navigate - both on the roads and with the locals!
How to capture in a single paragraph a lifetime of cutting edge conservation efforts tenaciously achieved in isolated areas with Namibia’s local communities?
Fortunately, we don’t have to, because Garth Owen Smith has done it for us. His book, An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld, details his extraordinary life and his efforts to involve local communities in the conservation of their land and their wildlife. It is both a story of the past and a roadmap for the future. So begin planning your trip to Namibia to pay Garth a visit and experience first hand what he describes as the “Real Africa”, where people and wildlife are living together.
Dorob National Park, which incorporates core conservation areas and multiple use areas for adventure tourism, is a park of great imagination. Running from just south of Walvis Bay to the Ugab River in the north, it is a key piece of the puzzle along Namibia’s coast that allows for the entire 976 mile (1,570km) coastline of the country to be protected. Collectively, this area is known as the Namib Skeleton Coast National Park, and it consolidates three national parks: Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft and Sperrgebiet, and includes four wetlands of international importance. The 10.754 million hectare mega-park is the sixth largest terrestrial park in the world and the largest in Africa. In fact, the protected area is larger than Portugal!
The Dorob National Park is another example of smart conservation in Namibia. There are core conservation areas set aside for rare and endangered species, while at the same time other areas are set aside for multiple uses, including adventure tourism, so that the very people who need and want to protect the park aren’t shut out. Windsurfing, kayaking amongst dolphins, quad biking and skydiving are popular coastal activities. The Dorob National Park is inclusive, progressive conservation that aspires to great, grand goals.
Holden Mole here, at your service, straight out of the NRNR. That’s the NamibRand Nature Reserve for you unhep folks out there. I bet you think that’s a typo. That’s why you’re unhep. I’m hip to the underground scene. I’m always on the lookout for vibrations that may indicate approaching danger or dope beats. I was listening to Armin van Buuren before Armin van Buuren was listening to Armin van Buuren. Ever heard of Pierre Pienaar? Of course you haven’t. But I have. You don’t need eyes to survive in my world, you just rely on your ears to seek out what’s deck. I spend most of my days swimming through the sand, but if the groove is right, I might just spend some time on the surface. It doesn’t matter what how hot or cool your scene is, I can change my body temperature to fit my surroundings. I know all the cool cats in the desert environment, and if you’re lucky, I just might introduce you to some of them.
What do you want? Don’t you know I’m a solitary man? I’m Roger, yeah, Roger the Rhino. Laugh all you want. My eyesight isn’t that great, but I can hear ya and sure can smell ya! I’m 3,000 pounds of power and I don’t like being laughed at. I like peace and quiet and space, but peace isn’t so easy to find these days. So I guess it’s time to talk, because man you are killing me. Not ‘me’ exactly, but my brothers and sisters in the rest of Africa are taking a hammering. In Namibia we do this conservation thing differently. Follow me and I’ll tell you how it’s done.
My name's Chase. I'm a fast-talking fast cat who likes fast stuff: fast cars, fast planes, and fast food...
... not that much of my food is faster than me. I'm sleek, stealthy and built for speed, reaching top speeds of 110 km/hr.
When not hunting on the savannah, I spend most of my time in Otjiwarongo lounging with my coalition - a pack of chill cheetahs.
Though I like to play the role of gentleman, I have been known to love you then leave you - off to chase my newest catch.
Read more about Chase.
Tweet! I’m Dara Tern, I’m like, um, two and a half weeks old, but so far I’ve spent my whole life inside this cozy egg, mostly just, like, playing Angry Birds on my smartphone, so there’s not too much to tell.
But I’m ready to face the outside world. When I crack out of this egg in a few days, its not going to be easy. Chirp! I’m about to be in the fight of my life, literally. I need to make sure I don’t get eaten by jackals or scary gulls – only, like, a third of us doesn’t end up as dinner to predators.
The odds may be stacked against me, but with a little determination and a fighting spirit I’ll be happily soaring over the ocean and making the annual journey north in no time. Tweeeeet!!!!
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is based in the heart of cheetah country, near Otjiwarongo, within the Waterberg Conservancy. CCF is dedicated to the conservation of wild cheetahs by employing a variety of integrated approaches in species conservation strategies. These strategies include teaching human/wildlife conflict resolution; livestock and wildlife management; the predator’s role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem; education and awareness; and biological research.
Namibia prides itself on being the "Cheetah Capital of the World", with over 3,000 individuals living in the north-central and western areas of the country. As 95 percent of Namibia’s cheetah population lives on the same lands as livestock farmers, conflict between the two is very likely to occur.
Since CCF’s founding in 1990, the organization has had great success working with farmers who live with cheetahs on their land. This has led to two thirds of over 800 cheetahs CCF has worked with being released back into the wild. But there are always orphaned and injured cheetahs unable to make it into the wild, and they stay in a large, peaceful sanctuary at CCF. These cheetahs are part of ongoing research to better understand cheetah biology, physiology and behavior.
Dr. Laurie Marker, American founder and executive director of CCF, described Namibia as the country she identifies with most. “I’m much more Namibian than American. I speak American English, but my heart and soul and investment is in Namibia, and I believe that it is a country that can show the world a lot about natural resource management and living with predators.” Dr Marker is committed to sharing this message internationally, and the world not only listens, it rewards her for her dedication to cheetah conservation.
The Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) is a non-profit, Namibian trust located 100km south of Sossusvlei in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Established in 2003, NaDEET believes environmental education must not only increase awareness and knowledge but also eco-friendly attitudes and skills in Namibia's youth and educators to promote sustainable living.
Most center-based environmental education programs tend to address just one main issue: wildlife conservation. NaDEET feels that this topic is important, but that appropriate environmental education programs that teach young people and rural community members how to address the basic everyday environmental concerns: food, water and shelter, are also vital to the future of our planet and our place on it.
NaDEET’s emphasis is on creating learning opportunities that can be applied in everyday life. They believe that having school children live in a sustainable manner is much more valuable than just hearing about it in a classroom setting.
The organization’s philosophy is not only to teach sustainable living, but to practice it. The Centre is built in such a way that all ‘living’ activities, such as cooking, cleaning and giving shelter, are practiced using sustainable or alternative energy resources. This concept forms an integral part of the program. To date, almost no fossil fuels have been used at the NaDEET Centre for cooking, lighting or heating water making NaDEET a leader in strategies against climate change.
With NaDEET’s holistic approach to the environment (including the social environment) and its integral philosophy of sustainable living as a way of life, this project lays an important foundation and supports the formal school curriculum the learners are exposed to in the classroom. For rural community members, NaDEET opens their eyes to energy efficient lifestyle and gives them the equipment needed to implement it. Without knowledge and skills - and most importantly, the values to want to protect the environment - Namibians will not be able to contribute positively to developing their country sustainably.
In the early 1980s, illegal poaching of black rhinos in the arid north-western regions of Namibia was rife. The population of these rare, solitary creatures had been decimated, leaving an estimated 60 rhinos. The black rhino was in desperate need of help.
Faced with the rhino's near-extinction, a trust was formed with the aim of ensuring protection of the remaining rhinos while affording elephant and other wildlife, the chance to recover to sustainable numbers. With a groundswell of local and national support and with the help of international funds, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) - Namibia was officially registered in 1982.
Initially, a combination of ex-poachers and members of the local community were employed by SRT to monitor and protect the rhinos. These men had extensive knowledge of the habits of these animals and the rugged terrain they inhabited. The aim of preventing the extermination of the endangered black rhino on communal land has been enthusiastically supported by chiefs, headmen and the local communities. Since the SRT was founded, there has been close collaboration with the government, local communities, national and international partners. This coalition has been central in achieving the aim of enhancing security for the rhino; monitoring and researching the rhino population; and providing benefits to the community through conservation and tourism.
Since beginning its research and monitoring work in the 1980s, SRT, along with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, has overseen a 200 percent increase in rhino numbers. This dramatic turnaround could not have been achieved without the steadfast support of the SRT’s international and local conservation partners.
Yet threats to the black rhino remain and there is no time for complacency in conservation. Fortunately, SRT and its partners understand this, and together they are working hard to ensure that the last, truly wild population of black rhinos not only survives, but thrives.
In its short lifetime the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management (NACOMA) project has entrenched itself in Namibian society to such an extent that it is known nationally and internationally for its awareness-raising and involvement in issues related to coastal management and conservation.
As integral partners in the establishment of the Marine Protected Areas and the Dorob National Park amongst others, NACOMA has progressed in creating a better understanding about the importance of conservation and sustainable utilization of the coastal resources. It has been diligently working towards achieving all its main objectives as a short-term project in support of the Namibian Government.
NACOMA was launched in March 2006 as part of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, acting on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Namibia. The NACOMA project office with a small staff complement of five is based at Swakopmund. It facilitates and co-ordinates the participation and inputs from various stakeholders, which include the line ministries, regional councils, local authorities, civil society, sectoral stakeholders, and support organizations. It relies on the co-operation of partner projects and utilizes the services and advice of local and international experts and scientists.
During the intensive and extensive policy formulation process with civil society, scientists and government, the following vision was formulated: “We, the Namibian people, want our coastal areas used in a wise manner, so that social, cultural, environmental and economic concerns are carefully balanced with the overall aim of sustainability in mind, and conservation and economic progress going hand in hand in an integrated manner. All our resources should be developed to their full, including our natural and human resources, with fair and transparent access to opportunities for all, now and into the future.”
Happy Earth Day Everyone!
And welcome to Conservation Destination: Namibia.
Namibia is home to the most successful conservation story in Africa. It’s the story of species that were teetering on the edge of extinction thirty years ago, which are now thriving. It's the story of communities saying, “Yes, we will live with wildlife.”
Over the next six weeks you will have a chance to follow the inspirational stories of our conservation heroes who have dedicated their life’s work to conservation of species, habitats and sustainable living.
Their stories will inspire you to see the world differently and for two lucky people, this will REALLY mean seeing a different world: Namibia! During this campaign, you can enter our sweepstakes to win a ten-day all-inclusive trip to Namibia, to experience the “Greatest Conservation Story Ever Told,” for yourself.
The winner of our sweepstakes plus a traveling companion will track free roaming rhinos; care for rescued cheetahs; take in the vast array of wildlife on Namibia’s coast and in its deserts; and explore Namibia’s Endless Horizons.
It's easy to be captivated by the contrasting and brilliant colours of the Namibian landscape. But professional photographer, Christopher Rimmer, looks at Namibia through a different lens. His black and white portraits, are not only striking, but expose the raw beauty of the people, animals and nature that are his subjects. We spoke to Christopher about why he thinks Namibia is "a photographer's dream".
The Dominant Male, Western Etosha, Namibia, 2011 by Christopher Rimmer
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
There have been so many, it is impossible to single out just one. I love waking up in the Kaokoveld and watching the sun slowly rise silhouetting a group of giraffe on the horizon. I love the silence and the whisper of the desert breeze and the dazzling galaxies of stars at night, the welcoming smile of a child. If you aren’t moved in some way by the sheer variety of beauty of Namibia, you just aren’t human.
"If you aren’t moved in some way by the sheer variety of beauty of Namibia, you just aren’t human"
How does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
Namibia is a photographer’s dream. The roads are good; the people are fascinating and friendly. The tourism infrastructure is world class, it’s safe and then there’s the quality of the light, which is quite simply – unforgettable! What’s not to love about Namibia? Sure there are some challenges, particularly for people who may be travelling in an arid region for the first time, but once you have experienced Namibia, it will stay in your heart forever. It is the only place on Earth where I have felt completely at peace.
Which photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of?
The Matriarch's Group near Okaukuejo, Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
When I went to Etosha Pan in 2009, I initially stayed at the camp at Okaukuejo where I would stake out a nearby water hole frequented by two groups of elephants who visited during the heat of the afternoon, practically on a daily basis. Observing the elephants every day, I realized that one group was a matriarch’s herd comprised of females together with calves and sub adults of both sexes, and the other comprised male adults only. Whilst they often arrived at the waterhole around the same time, the matriarch’s herd would drink and then head off to dust in the distance leaving the male group at the waterhole where they stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. As the matriarch’s group moved off together to the dusting grounds, I noticed they had a curious habit of forming a long straight line, almost like a group of trained circus elephants. I also realized that, if I was able to capture this scene on film, I would have a stunning photograph. I had a problem though. I had a wide lens which would capture the entire scene but not without capturing a significant amount of edge distortion in the process. I resolved to return the following year with a special panoramic camera with which I was able to capture the entire scene distortion free in stunning detail. The resulting print is just over 3 meters long and you can see individual hairs on each elephant. This image has sold many times over all around the world. It is a very carefully planned photograph and I’m proud of it for that reason.
Himba Girl with Baby, Swaartbooisdrift, Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
This is the image that went all around the world when it was chosen by international news agencies to accompany a story about my photography being banned on Facebook. Facebook decided to remove some photographs of Himba women breast feeding their babies who were the subject of my 2010 Australian exhibition, ‘In Africa,’ on the grounds they were unfit to be viewed by minors. The obvious absurdity of this captured the media’s attention and I unwittingly became something of a poster boy for the benefits of breast-feeding! This photograph has travelled widely and later this year will be projected onto an enormous screen to coincide with its exhibition at the Montier en Der Festival in France. I often wonder about this woman and her child and I wish I could meet them again but I realize the chances are pretty slim.
Elephant Calves, Etosha Pan, 2009 by Christopher Rimmer
This photograph generates a common reaction in nearly everyone who sees it – empathy. People emotionally connect to the scene of tender affection displayed by these two young elephants. As a photographer and a passionate conservationist, I realized early in my career that my photography had the potential to act as a catalyst for change if people emotionally connected with what they saw in my photographs and if they emotionally connected, they would care about what they were seeing. The world’s last remaining elephant herds need our care and our consideration if they are to survive and if they are to be seen in the wild by our children and our grandchildren. The land they need to live is being degraded and diminished by seemingly unstoppable human encroachment and the great herds are being slaughtered on an unprecedented scale for their ivory. So I’m proud of this photograph because I am aware of the emotional impact it has made.
What is your equipment of choice for your Namibian expeditions?
I use a large range of cameras, some film and some digital. I never leave home for Namibia without a small digital body and a 50mm lens. Everywhere I travel in Namibia, I’m amazed at how enthusiastic people, particularly children, are to see their image on the back of a camera. It is a great way to break the ice when photographing strangers. Most of the work I exhibit is photographed using Pentax 6 x 7 cameras.
Herero Woman, Ruacana, Namibia, 2011 by Christopher Rimmer
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
#1 Take a spare battery for your camera and try to keep both charged, you may be hundreds of kilometres from the nearest plug!
#2 Take a set of ND grad filters to reduce the dynamic range of your exposures.
#3 Don’t leave your camera in direct sunlight. Dashboards of cars are a great place to melt the plastic bodies of modern cameras anywhere it’s hot but particularly in Namibia!
Giraffe at Etosha Pan Namibia, 2010 by Christopher Rimmer
Christopher Rimmer talks about his journeys to Namibia
About Christopher Rimmer
Christopher Rimmer was born in England, grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Australia in 1981. His photography career started as a teenager, taking photos with a plastic 35mm Hanimex camera. Since then he has exhibited in Australia, the United Kingdom and France, is represented in several public and many private collections, and his critically acclaimed photographs of Africa have been widely published. Rimmer's work made international news in October, 2010 when Facebook banned his images of breast feeding African women from the site on the grounds that they were unfit to be viewed by minors. He is a member of the Royal Photographic Society and was shortlisted for British magazine B&W Photographer of the Year for his work in Southern Africa in 2011 and again in 2012. His most recent exhibition “Spirits Speak” opened at Without Pier Gallery in Melbourne, Australia in June, 2012. Rimmer's work will be exhibited in 2013 at the Manton and Montier en Der Festivals in France.
More Photographer Tips
This is the second in a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week for the next two months, we'll be posting their tips and tricks, as well as their mind-blowing photographs.
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