Elephant >>

Significance - Economic

Elephants are capable of a major financial and economic contribution to the wildlife industry in Namibia. This contribution could come through any or all of the following uses of elephant:

These three uses are not mutually exclusive. A potential conflict could arise in any given area between the non-consumptive and the consumptive uses but with judicious planning, zoning and timing the conflicts can be minimised. Culling is usually an episodic event lasting for only a few days in the year and it can be carried out well away from the areas used by non-hunting tourists. Sport hunting can be done in areas not used for game viewing or immediately outside the boundaries of protected areas.

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Non-hunting tourism

For non-hunting tourism, the economic contribution would come more from expanding the elephant range than from increasing numbers in the present range.

The marginal contribution of elephants to game-viewing tourism is difficult to assess. DG (2004, p15) estimated the gross contribution to GDP attributable to elephants from game-viewing tourism in Botswana at US$39 million (Pula159 million). Assuming this income was derived from an area of about 100,000km2, the gross land use value would be about US$5/hectare and, if profit margins were 50%, the net return per unit area would be about US$3.3/hectare. Martin (1993) estimated the net financial returns from high-quality ecotourism in selected savanna localities with wildlife populations close to carrying capacity at about US$25/ha. It would not be unreasonable to attribute 20% of this value to elephants, i.e. about US$5/ha. However, whilst non-consumptive tourism in prime localities will give by far the greatest economic returns possible from wildlife (Barnes 2001), only a limited amount of land in any country is suitable for high quality game-viewing tourism and these high levels of financial return are not generally applicable over large tracts of land.

The value may be even higher in areas which have a local overabundance of elephant - however, the sustainability of such a land use is questionable. The initial effect of a high density of elephant in any park is that it will attract tourists as has been experienced in the Chobe River riverfront in Botswana and the Main Camp area in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. However, if overpopulation is allowed to persist, eventually the large trees will disappear from the park, other animal species will decline, biodiversity will be affected and the aesthetic appearance of the park will suffer. In the extreme case desertification and soil erosion will result and this, in turn, may lead to a crash in the elephant population. At this stage the attraction of the protected area for tourism will be reduced.

In the long term, it is doubtful whether there is any proportionate increase in tourism with increasing densities of elephants above some baseline. In southern African savannas, elephants at a density of 1/km2 may be the threshold above which additional numbers produce diminishing tourism returns. In areas such as the arid north-west of Namibia elephant densities will be far lower and the present population of some 1,000 elephants in about 60,000km2 of the Kaokoveld and Damaraland may provide sufficient attraction for tourists to visit the area. The returns from tourism would probably not increase greatly with more elephants since there are other attractions beyond 'desert elephants' which cause tourists to visit the area.

The land use values given for wildife management under non-hunting tourism may appear high. They are not. I conclude this section with two examples from Martin (2000a) for a property of about 3,000 hectares near the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Before the tourism industry in Zimbabwe collapsed for political reasons, the expected gross return from this property from 24 half-day visitors paying US$125 each for an eco-tourism experience was US$876,000 per year or some US$300/hectare.

In addition to normal eco-tourism, an operation using twelve domesticated elephants belonging to the Elephant Company (Pvt) Ltd was carried out on the property. Each elephant carried an average of 3 tourists each paying US$100 every morning and every afternoon of the year on bush walks lasting about 3 hours using an area of about 500 hectares. The gross return from this operation was some US$2,600,000 per year or over US$5,000 per hectare. Taking into account agents' fees, running costs and capital repayments, the net annual earnings were in excess of US$0.5 million per year - a land use return of over US$1,000 per hectare. This is the highest land use value for wildlife which I have encountered anywhere in Africa and it is attributable entirely to elephant.

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International sport hunting

Under a high quality trophy hunting regime, elephants could earn a net income of about US$120,000 for every 1,000 animals in the population. In the north-east of the country where elephant densities are reaching a level of 1/km2 the net financial return should be of the order of US$1.20/ha (N$7.50/ha) which, when added to the present net returns from existing wildlife management without elephant hunting, could result in a doubling of income. The present levels of exploitation of elephant for sport hunting on communal land in the Caprivi and eastern Kavango and Otzojondzupa provinces (NNF 2004) are well below sustainable offtake levels and could be significantly increased for the benefit of local peoples. In economic terms, the 'net value added' to land use values by the inclusion of sport hunting on commercial farms in the north of Namibia is, in all cases, more than double the value of the cash income (Barnes & de Jager 1995) and this relationship should hold true for the enhanced income obtained by adding elephants to the species mix.

With a trophy male quota of 0.5% of an elephant population of 1,000 animals in an area of 1,000km2, the net financial return should be of the order of US$117,000 which is equivalent to a land use value of US$1.17/ha (N$7.25/ha). If no other management were being undertaken, this value would remain true for one year only: an elephant population increasing at 4.56% would yield an increasing quota of trophies starting at 5 in the first year and rising to 42 after 50 years.

These values were derived for a typical savanna elephant population growing at 4.56% per annum. Tests were carried out on a population with a lower growth rate of around 3% as might be expected for the north-western elephant population. The sustainable quota levels do not change markedly - if anything a slightly higher quota is possible from the slower growing population (around 0.6% of the total population). This would imply a quota of 5 elephants for the north-western population which is estimated as about 800 animals.

As a land use return, a value of US$1.17 does not appear unduly high. Barnes & de Jager (1995) found net land use values of US$1.62 for southern sheep/wildlife farms, US$1.08 - US$4.86 for northern cattle/wildlife farms (depending on the size of the management unit) and US$2.43-US$7.03 for northern non-hunting tourism operations on private land (also depending on the size of the management unit). All of these were values earned without elephants. The addition of trophy elephant hunting to the first two systems would result in increases in the net returns from land from 24-108% depending on the system to which elephant were added. It could also be expected that there would also be an increase in non-hunting tourism values if elephants were present.

For the same land categories, Barnes & de Jager (1995) found that the 'net value added' in economic terms to the land use values listed above was in all cases more than double the financial value and it would be reasonable to expect that this relationship would hold true for the enhanced income obtained by adding elephants to the species mix.

Data from communal conservancies (NNF 2004) suggest that levels of exploitation of elephant for sport hunting in the Caprivi and eastern Kavango and Otzojondzupa provinces are well below the sustainable offtake levels and could be significantly increased for the benefit of local peoples.

Elephant are one of the few species for which the value-added benefits of sport hunting do not exceed the actual commodity values of the products from the hunted animals - assuming that markets are operating normally so that the values of ivory and elephant skin can be fully realised. In the table on page 89, the commodity value of elephant products from the animals hunted is slightly higher than the return from sport hunting (US$1.22/ha versus US$1.17/ha).

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The distinction needs to be made between 'cropping' and 'culling':

Cropping - a deliberate exploitation of elephants for their products (ivory, skin and meat) can be practised so that all age classes in the population are equally harvested

Culling - a management operation designed to reduce elephant densities for conservation reasons focuses on the removal of entire elephant herds because this has the greatest effect in reducing population growth for the least offtake of animals.

Both practices result in products with financial value.

Were the Ministry to combine elephant sport hunting with reduction of elephant populations through culling in the State protected areas in the north-east of the country (a total of 14,000km2 including the Caprivi Forest Reserve), the expected income would be some N$13 million which would meet the present costs of maintaining and managing these areas. If a similar management regime were practised by the conservancies in the north-east , the increase in income would also be substantial and should more than offset the costs which elephant are presently causing through crop raiding and other damage.

The net income from culling a population of 1,000 elephant (which would normally grow at a rate of 4.56% per annum) at a level of 3% to maintain a constant density of 1/km2 would be about US$60,000 per year.

Male trophy hunting from the same population would yield an additional US$273,000 per year, giving a total net income of US$333,000 annually. The land use value of this income is substantial: US$3.33 (N$20.7) per hectare.

Martin (2005) analysed a comprehensive management programme under which elephants are culled to keep their numbers constant and, at the same time, trophy hunting of males takes place. Elephant calves between the ages of 2-8 years are captured and sold to approved buyers rather than killed. Because of the skewing of the population age structure caused by removing a preponderance of females, the sustainable trophy hunting quota can be doubled. This does not, however, result in more hunting trophies than would be obtained from an elephant population which is managed solely for sport hunting: in the latter case, because the population continues to increase, trophy quotas can be increased over the years. When the population is being culled to keep numbers constant, the sport hunting quota remains the same in every year.

The required budget for all of the protected areas in the north-east of Namibia has been estimated as N$26 million (UNDP 2005). If the State protected areas in the north-east which have elephant populations (a total of 14,097km2 including the Caprivi Forest Reserve) were managed for optimal financial returns, the expected income would be some N$29 million. This would more than meet the entire State conservation costs for the north-east.

Of course, this is a somewhat simplified calculation. Unless the State conducted its own elephant hunting safaris, a large proportion of the income from trophy hunting would accrue to safari operators. Much of the estimated income from elephant products would not be immediately realisable because of CITES. It is assumed that Babwata and the Forest Reserve elephant populations are at a high enough elephant density to be managed in this manner. However, given the estimate for the whole of the north-east in this report (about 14,000 elephants), the management programme could be arranged to secure the required income sustainably.

Under such a management regime, the increase in income which would be enjoyed by conservancies in the north-east would also be substantial. It should more than offset the costs which elephant are presently causing through crop raiding and other damage.