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Namibia's marine and terrestrial fauna

NNamibia is globally renowned for its wildlife. Iconic species such as elephant and lion are well known, but there are thousands of species that are less familiar. Each one plays a role in ecological processes that maintain the health, productivity and beauty of the environment. Even species that are considered by many people to be pests – termites, snakes, rats and wasps, for example – have valuable, yet often poorly known, ecological functions. Impacts on one species can easily disrupt the ecological balance and result in unforeseen consequences. As living organisms, all animals have inherent qualities – which we may or may not understand – for which we should ensure they can survive

Namibia recognises the value of its wildlife, flora and landscapes and strives to protect them through its constitution, a range of environmental legislation, 21 state-protected areas, 86 communal conservancies and several transboundary initiatives. Furthermore, many areas in Namibia are internationally recognised as special in one way or another, often because of the wildlife or ecosystems they support; these designated areas include four Ramsar sites, two world heritage sites, nineteen important bird areas (IBAs), four endemic bird areas (EBAs) and seven ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs).

The marine environment is driven by the cold Benguela Current, and localised upwellings which bring nutrient-rich water from the depths to the surface. These nutrients support productive webs of life which form the basis of Namibia's substantial and lucrative fishing industry.

Terrestrial wildlife contributes significantly to Namibia's economy through its contribution to the tourism, hunting and farming sectors, in addition to providing obvious direct benefits such as meat. Wildlife also provides a variety of important indirect benefits to people – known as ecosystem services – which are less easy to quantify, such as the role of vultures in consuming carrion and preventing the spread of diseases; or the cultural and spiritual values gained by experiencing beautiful natural environments.

Photo: The long reed frog (Hyperolius nasutus) is a common resident of the Zambezi Region but is rarely seen. It is less than 25 millimetres long.