As the misinformation campaign in Namibia wildlife conservation circles continues to rage, two well-respected conservation professionals have entered the fray.
Dr. Liz Rihay and Dr. Malan Lindeque have authored an op-ed in response to the fake news being disseminated by author John Grobler.
Dr. Rihay is a political scientist specialising in the politics and governance of conservation and community development in Africa. She is a Director of Resource Africa.
Dr. Malan Lindeque is a conservation biologist who is the former Permanent Secretary of Environment and Tourism and the current Chairperson of the Nature Conservation Board of Namibia. He is a director of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, IRDNC.
The Rihay-Lindeque op-ed, appearing in the Daily Maverick, directly challenges the assertions made by Grobler in his op-ed “Troubled times for Namibian wildlife”. Grobler generally asserts that there are inherent problems with hunting in Namibia in general, and the country’s conservancy system, in particular.
Rihay and Lindeque point out: “This article [authored by Grobler] is remarkable primarily because it makes no attempt to hide the fact that its sweeping conclusions on ‘troubled times’ for conservation in Namibia are based on nothing but speculation, second-hand hearsay, quoting of officials from out-of-date and out-of-context sources, anecdote and innuendo. No attempt is made to explore the scientific and social complexities of conservation or present any facts or analysis on the status of conservation in Namibia. Conversely, information from an NGO website is applied out of context, resulting in false and misleading conclusions.”
The phrase “follow the money” is certainly relevant in this situation. Rihay and Lindeque observe that the Grobler article is “partially financed by the Cape Town-based Conservation Action Trust, an organization closely aligned with what was formally known as the animal rights movement — a movement and group of organizations which now prefers to be collectively identified under the rubric of compassionate conservation.”
“This movement, which has its roots and a vast majority of supporters in the western hemisphere, is vehemently opposed to the consumptive use of animals,” Rihay and Lindeque continued. “In adopting this position, they place the rights of individual animals before those of people. Given the intensity of their lobbying efforts on African wildlife, it seems fair to conclude that they consider human rights are particularly easy to disregard when they are the rights of Africans.”
Is there a more sinister goal behind the blatant misrepresentation of the success of the Namibian Conservation Management model? The authors suggest that the May 2019 CITES meeting is the true focus of such flagrant misleading allegations.
“But as an outstanding example of success, Namibia is also the outstanding target for those who oppose its conservation strategies on ideological grounds,” they noted. “Hence attempts, no matter how blatantly ill-informed, such as the Grobler article, to discredit Namibia. Such attempts will gain momentum in the coming months with the approach in May 2019 of the triennial meeting of the Convention on the International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES). This convention is the only forum for shaping rules of global trade in wildlife and represents a major battleground for those opposing a human rights-based approach to conservation.”
And if fake news wins? Rihay and Lindeque conclude their article with a dire warning for those who choose to fabricate a false narrative: “Conservation efforts that fail to acknowledge the rights of people to benefit from wildlife — ensuring they have incentives to live side-by-side with dangerous animals and become wildlife defenders — force people and wildlife into a battle from which both emerge as losers.
It should be clearly recognised that these attacks on successful conservation strategies for ideological reasons not only threaten the success of conservation in Africa, but also undermine the basic human rights of some of the poorest in our countries.”