Note: Tiffin resident Gabi Felter took part in an expedition to Africa this year, and recounts her experiences in a series of columns.
As my series on Namibia comes to a close, I realize how little I know about this awesome country in Africa.
After transferring my non-refundable down payment from the Honduras Expedition (I am not and do not plan to be a scuba diver, a prerequisite for that trip) to the "Big Cat Conundrum" in Namibia, I had no idea what I was getting into, but I certainly was going to give it my best.
Our Biosphere Expedition team is part of a five-year research project (we were in the first-year group) headed by scientist Kristina Killian, whose focus is the study of the ecology and the behavior of the wild animals and their conservation.
Ulf and Michaela Tubbesing are the owners of the Ongos Farm (our study site) and the overseers of the project design and local involvement.
Biosphere Expedition provides the necessary manpower (volunteers) and resources to ensure a successful outcome of this project.
One of the main objectives is to be able to present private farmers in Namibia with supporting information and a feasible plan on alternative land management practices.
Namibia is the first country to incorporate conservation into its constitution. However, as tourism becomes increasingly popular, the country does not have the financial resources to pursue practices conducive to the protection of the wildlife and its habitat.
Ongos Farm is a primary example of what can be done by private farmers to successfully rehabilitate land, from a cattle ranch to a well-stocked game ranch. Ongos Farm was bought in 2004; today, it is resplendent in giraffes, all sorts of antelope, wildebeest, hartebeest, ostrich, warthogs, baboons and more.
As a volunteer, I got to see the results of conservation techniques, such as removing fences, which impede natural migration, up close and personal.
I could not end this series without addressing trophy hunting on game ranches. I, like so many, probably was labeled as a "bunny hugger." So, as I was telling people about my upcoming trip, I went on and on as to how people could kill these majestic animals as sport and use their heads as wall art.
After being in Namibia for a couple of days, I was eating my words and began to understand, again, the natural balance of things. I knew full well why we have deer hunting in Ohio. Overpopulation is a threat to our natural balance of things. Before we know it, deer would be running the streets and moving into our homes.
So, why didn't I take that concept and apply it to Africa?
The way Ulf described it, the responsible game farmer in charge of trophy hunting would steer the hunter to the 10-year-old kudu (the prized animal of choice because of its striking, spiraling horns). A kudu of that age declines rapidly and becomes a burden to the rest of the stock.
Namibia, as well are other countries in Africa, is dirt poor. Therefore, the business of trophy hunting is critical to the economy. About 5,000 hunters a year come to this country for hunting and spend about 300 million Namibian dollars.
So, on that note, I will end my series. I hope you have enjoyed these columns as much I have enjoyed writing them.