African Wildlife: The Fine Line Between Scourge and Savior

Written by Sean Koenig, ChangeStream Media co-founder

Imagine commuting to work, only to find your office has been demolished by a herd of wooly mammoths. Or returning home to find your yellow lab has been devoured by a saber-toothed tiger. The extinction o megafauna of North America makes life easier in ways we almost never acknowledge, and the fierce opposition to limited re-introduction of wolves indicates how unlikely it is we’d welcome back our ecological heritage, even if it were possible.

In rural Sub-Saharan Africa, living alongside megafauna is not a hypothetical situation. Every day is a struggle to coexist with elephants and hippos that can devour a field of crops in a night, and lions and hyenas that feast on untended cows and goats. Finding ways to reduce and manage these conflicts, while turning the surrounding wilderness into a valuable economic asset, may be the only way to ensure the continued existence of the ecosystem from which our species evolved.

This is the issue ChangeStream Media will be exploring over the coming months, as we work with groups in several countries pioneering strategies like game management, sustainable resource harvesting, and eco-tourism.

Our first stop is in Namibia, one of the world’s foremost leaders in Community Based Natural Resource Management. When the nation was formed in 1990, land rights for rural communities were written directly into the constitution. There are currently over 80 wildlife conservancies established around the country, allowing communities to benefit from wildlife by harvesting game meat, licensing tourist lodges, and permitting trophy hunting. In exchange, these communities must equitably share the benefits from these activities throughout the community and actively monitor the health of the flora and fauna in their territory.


Adapted with permission from NACSO’s 2014 Audit Report

Our partners in Namibia, the World Wildlife Fund, along with a coalition of groups including the Namibian Association of Conservancy Support Organizations (NACSO) and the Integrated Rural Development & Nature Conservation organization (IRDNC) have helped to develop an innovative way for conservancies to manage their natural resources.

Yesterday I had a chance to learn about this tool, called the Event Book system, from two of its developers, Dave Ward and Dr. Greg Stuart-Hill at the NACSO headquarters in Windhoek (below). In a future post, I’ll explain more about the system and introduce you to the Salambala Conservancy, which has done an amazing job in implementing it.

Meeting with Dave Ward and Greg Stuart-Hill at NACSO