Namibia Ponders Regulations over Trophy Photos on Social Media

In a July 3 memorandum, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) announced that it would introduce a condition on all permits prohibiting hunters from posting trophy photos to social media. On July 11, the Nambia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) advised in a press release that any potential regulation has been put on hold pending meetings between the MET and industry stakeholders.

The original memo from MET Minister Pohamba Shifeta read, in part, “The Ministry would like to request all hunters, even those with valid hunting permits, to refrain from posting photographs of dead animals taken during hunting expeditions on social media […] the Ministry has now introduced a new permit condition, to prohibit hunters with valid permits not to post or send photographs on public platforms…”

In a July 6 release, NAPHA responded by saying that it had not expected the memo from Shifeta, but that it supports limits and/or guidelines on posting of trophy photos to social media. NAPHA President Danene van der Westhuyzen wrote, “It is clear that the Minister’s statement was made with the intention of improving the safeguarding of trophy hunting in Namibia; and we are advising the public and our members to support him in this.”

Somewhat confusingly, the main issue now appears to be use of trophy photos for online/social media marketing by hunting operators, as opposed to posts by tourist hunters on social media. NAPHA’s communications noted that in 2017 the MET attempted to introduce permit conditions prohibiting the marketing of trophy hunting on the internet.” This was met by staunch resistance from hunters, who rely on marketing to international clients online. At this point, it seems likely that any regulations will address both operators and hunters.

In a second press release on July 11, NAPHA said that it met with the MET and other stakeholders in Namibia “Herewith we can confirm that the implementation of the condition on the restriction of the posting of trophy animals on social media made by the Minister is for now on hold, until such time as the industry has reverted back with proposed guidelines for ethical marketing practices for the hunting community.” The MET, NAPHA and other stakeholders plan to meet on July 27, and it has been agreed that NAPHA will advise the public of the outcome.

NAPHA has already proposed a draft of guidelines for the social media advertising and posts entitled ‘A quick guide to ethical marketing practices for hunters’.

Naturally, the MET’s memo met with some consternation from hunters. Users on online forums like africahunting.com have pointed out that any regulation on use of photos by tourist hunters would likely be unenforceable, and that hunters should not be prevented from posting photos of trophies taken on ethical hunts that support conservation. That said, Namibia has faced major controversy following social media posts of hunts, particularly from photos of high-profile species like rhino, elephant, and lion. We know well that anti-hunting organizations have become adept at using trophy photos to stir controversy and push their false narrative that legal, managed hunting is endangering wildlife.

Jason Roussos of the Operators and Professional Hunting Association says that it is past time for hunters to regulate their conduct online. “Forget the anti-hunters, I don’t care about them. But we do need to be sensitive and respectful to the position non-hunters (who are the majority out there) have in regard to hunting. Most non-hunters are ill-informed about trophy hunting and by not being careful about what we do and don’t do, we are simply giving the antis more ammo to attack us with. If we lose the support of enough non-hunters (by turning them into anti-hunters) it’s lights out for us all.”

Hopefully, the MET and industry stakeholders can arrive at a solution that will help avoid unnecessary firestorms over hunting. Namibia as a whole, and NAPHA in particular, has been proactive in efforts to flip the script on the antis, and to show non-hunters that hunting in the country is a primary driver of habitat and wildlife conservation. In this they have been a leader in Africa, and The Hunting Report strongly supports such efforts.