Double fences for wildebeest questioned

Photo Suzette Louw

The reinforcement of double-fence regulations concerning wildebeest management in Namibia has sparked considerable debate within the hunting and farming communities.

The Namibia Professional Hunting Association (Napha) fears these regulations can be detrimental to wildebeest conservation and urged immediate attention to address these concerns.

The agriculture ministry’s directorate of veterinary services (DVS) requires farmers to construct a double fence around wildebeest camps if their farm also houses livestock. This regulation, based on the Animal Health Act, specifies that the boundary fence must be at least 10 metres away from neighbouring farms unless the adjacent property is a game farm.

Additionally, wildebeest camps within a farm are exempt from double fencing if there is no livestock on the farm and the camp is more than 100 metres away from neighbouring farms.

“The primary concern is the potential elimination of wildebeest on commercial farmlands due to these stringent regulations. A drastic reduction could severely impact biodiversity, tourism and the hunting industry in Namibia. Wildebeest are essential to the ecosystem, and their decline could lead to significant biodiversity loss. Moreover, the tourism and hunting sectors, which rely heavily on diverse wildlife, would suffer economically,” Napha said.

“Game farmers highlighted the impracticality of separating wildebeest from cattle with double internal fences within the same farm, noting the added cost and logistical challenges. The farmers also questioned whether all mixed cattle and wildebeest owners are aware of these developments and whether the wildlife sector is prepared to accept these unilateral decisions by the DVS.”

Balance needed

The regulation aims to prevent the spread of malignant catarrhal fever (MCF), a concern for cattle farmers. However, according to Napha, more comprehensive research and stakeholder consultation are needed to develop regulations that balance disease prevention with wildlife conservation.

“Recent survey results indicate significant opposition to the double-fence regulations. A total 81% of respondents are facing extra expenses to comply with the double fencing requirement for wildebeest camps, while 67% of respondents would prefer compensating neighbours in the event of an MCF outbreak over adhering to the double-fencing requirement.

“Furthermore, 82% of respondents would consider keeping wildebeest on their farm if the regulation was not in place, highlighting the potential for increased wildlife diversity and economic benefits from game farming if the regulation is relaxed.”

Napha said it is actively working with the Livestock Producers Organisation and the Namibia Agricultural Union to find a mutually beneficial solution to approach the DVS with.

“We are committed to collaborating with all stakeholders to find a balanced and sustainable solution that protects both livestock health and wildlife diversity.”

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