20 October 2009
Even the French are having problems...where are the hunters?
In the midst of the current battles on health care in the US (yes, we have CNN and BBC), it is perhaps a little heart-warming to find out that there is something that even the French haven't figured out. No, not health insurance. Hunter recruitment.
Today, The Namibian newspaper reported that the average age of French hunters is 54 (click here for the same story at Yahoo News). The US is facing similar declines in hunters and fisherpeople, which threatens funding of conservation. Hunters and fisherfolks pay considerable amounts of money through their licenses and other purchases which not only support conservation, but directly provide the budgets for state wildlife agencies. Agencies are now engaged in hunter recruitment campaigns to avoid laying off staff and cutting programs. On the educational side, my UNL colleagues and I have started to participate in a national program designed to expose our wildlife students to hunting.
It is interesting to consider why The Namibian printed this article about French hunters. Approximately 3% of Namibia's GNP comes from foreign hunters (including many French). If you doubt this, take a look (below) at the number of horns being processed during one week by one taxidermy shop in Windhoek! If the number of hunters declines in the US and in Europe, Namibia's ecotourism industry (the hunting portion, at least) can plan on a similarly-paced decline.
Essentially, the message appears to be that if you are considering investing in hunting-based tourism, you might want to reconsider.
It will be interesting to come back to Namibia in 25 years to see how hunter-based tourism plays out. It is an industry (from the hunter's assistants to lodge workers to the taxidermy workers) that is supported by the current low wages paid to uneducated assistants. Liability insurance is also a minor component of business expenses, at the present time. The hunting industry in Namiba could face hard times if (1) the number of hunters shrinks (as projected), (2) worker wages increase as Namibia becomes more developed, and (3) if liability insurance becomes more expensive here.