The Edmond Blanc Prize awards outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation and game management that are based on the principles of sustainable wildlife use. The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) has been awarding game reserves, conservation associations and organizations since 1928, choosing one area every second year, honoring those that have had outstanding success in their work to conserve the natural environment, to protect free-roaming animals in the wild and to manage game according to principles of sustainability. During the closing ceremony of this year’s 66th General Assembly, Namibia, the Edmond Blanc Prize was given to the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Stakeholders, and was awarded to Stephan Jacobs for their work as professional hunters within the conservancy. A short dance was performed on stage to commemorate the occasion, which was followed by Chief Tsamkxao ≠Oma of the Nyae Nyae conservancy giving his thoughts as the Chief Bobo. He spoke of the changes since the creation of the conservancy, with particular mentions to the use of designated areas specifically for the purposes of hunting. Nyae Nyae’s dedication to the use of modern hunting practices, and their adoption of hunting regulations and quotas, was also highlighted.
Stephan Jacobs then took the stage to give a statement on his experience as a professional hunter at the Nyae Nyae conservancy. He opened by stating the huge difference in elephant numbers, as well as lions and plains game, since the introduction of the conservancy in 1998; elephant numbers were estimated to be between 80-100 in 1978, with the current elephant population numbering between 1500 and 2000. Supplying water to these elephants was noted as one of their most significant achievements, with the average elephant bull consuming 250l of water a day.
The contributions of trophy hunting and what is has achieved for Nyae Nyae were emphasized, which includes providing 85% of the conservancy’s income, funding a number projects including a cash benefit (in 2017/18 more than 2 million Namibian dollars was given to conservancy members as cash benefits). Meat distribution, totaling more than 50 tonnes of meat per year, and job opportunities were regarded as additional benefits.
Mr. Jacobs also stressed the importance of the Sun people, who provide knowledge of traditional hunting techniques (such as tracking) and how to coexist with wildlife when living amongst them. He gave an overview of a typical day in his life as a professional hunter, which includes tracking and identifying elephants that are suitable to be hunted – on average they look through 80-100 elephant bulls before finding one sufficient in size, age and other characteristics.
Achievements of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy
Nyae Nyae was considered for this prize on the basis of their outstanding achievements in conservation, fulfilling multiple criteria set out by the CIC. Their work in the sustainable use of wildlife has yielded clear and measurable results through an increase in the number of wildlife, particularly in the restoration of elephant numbers in the conservancy. Aggregating data from aerial surveys, moonlight waterhole and foot transect counts, it was found that elephant numbers have increased at an average rate of 3.0% per year between 1998 and 2015. Much of this is due to the work that Stephan and his team have done in the creation of new boreholes that provide water to elephants – water can be considered a limiting factor to elephant population growth in this arid area.
Their approach to community involvement in conservation was also commended. The model, which incorporates ideas of community based natural resource management, shifted the majority of revenues to the local San people. Nyae Nyae’s community led approach gave local community members a reason to care about wildlife, and provided the San people with employment opportunities. Stephen works closely with the San on hunts, making good use of their tracking abilities. In addition, the San’s involvement in anti-poaching measures has led to the control of general poaching within the conservancy.
Their dedication to conducting responsible hunting was recognized as a further achievement by the CIC. Nyae Nyae has consistently elected professional hunters, acting as lease-holders for a five year period in the conservancy, that have shown their ability to successfully manage the conservational and socio-economic responsibilities associated with the role. In regards to their methodology when it comes to hunting, much care goes into choosing animals with the suitable characteristics. For the case of elephants, only older, post-productive elephant bulls are selected for this purpose. The hunting results of recent years are also impressive; the average weights of the tusks of all trophies were consistently well over 70 lbs with a positive, upwards trend – this is unmatched in Africa today.
The CIC would like to congratulate Mr and Mrs. Jacobs, as well as the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and stakeholders, on this achievement and we hope that their work can inspire others in the sustainable wildlife use community to work towards even greater successes going forward.