An analysis of trophy size trends in popular hunting species in Namibia over five years
Keywords:trophy, hunting, buffalo, roan, sable, kudu, trophy size
Within the last twenty years, Namibia has developed a leading alternative model of biodiversity conservation, largely due to its Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme and its allocation of large areas of land towards biodiversity conservation. The CBNRM model is based on the rights of communal conservancies to benefit from the wildlife that is present on their land; one such right is to receive meat and revenue from trophy hunting. However, the marketability of desirable trophy animals is dependent on the consistent presence of quality trophy individuals within local wildlife populations, which can, through over-hunting, lead to an unsustainable operation. This study considered trends in numbers, locations and sizes of trophies hunted over a five-year period. Three sought-after high-value species, namely buffalo (Syncerus caffer), roan (Hippotragus equinus), and sable (Hippotragus niger), along with the iconic and frequently hunted trophy species kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), were considered in this study. Buffalo and roan trophy sizes showed signs of a non-significant increase over time. Sable trophy measurements indicated a non-significant negative size trend, while kudu trophy measurements significantly declined across Namibia over the 5 years. It is speculated that large kudu bulls have become less common, possibly due to a combination of overhunting and the impact of rabies. Most roan, sable and kudu were hunted on freehold farms, while buffalo were exclusively hunted in national parks and communal conservancies in the north-east. Despite commercial game farmers breeding roan and sable selectively, there were no significant positive trends in trophy size on freehold farms. This study paves the way for further research into the effect of environmental and socio-economic variables that could be factored into determining the influence on trophy measurement trends, and for more effective monitoring and management of popular hunting wildlife species.
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