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Key points

  • Namibia is globally renowned for its wildlife. While some of the species are iconic and well known, many are not. They all play an important role in the functioning of the natural environment, for example by moving and cycling nutrients between trophic levels and different geographical areas.
  • The marine environment has a high biomass of phytoplankton and zooplankton because of the abundance of nutrients supplied by upwellings off the coast. These support abundant fish populations and one of the world's richest fisheries. The main marine fish and crustaceans commercially harvested are anchovy, horse mackerel, Cape hake, deep-water hake, two kinds of monkfish, west coast rock lobster and deep-sea red crab.
  • Marine mammals in Namibia's waters include the Cape fur seal and 31 species of whales and dolphins.
  • The Namibian Islands' Marine Protected Area protects islands, islets, kelp beds and other marine habitats. These are important roosting and nesting areas for seabirds, and spawning and nursery grounds for fish and other marine animals. Six other ecologically or biologically significant marine areas have been identified within Namibia's exclusive economic zone.
  • Namibia's wildlife is a major contributor to its economy, especially through its fisheries and earnings derived from tourism, trophy hunting and the sale of meat and live game.
  • The value of wildlife is well recognised by the designation of many globally recognised sites. There are also 21 state protected areas, 86 communal conservancies, and several transboundary conservation areas that protect plants, animals and landscapes.
  • Northern and northeastern Namibia support the greatest variety of most types of animals due to their more productive soils, higher rainfall, more tropical conditions and the presence of wetland and forest habitats. The coastal plain and Namib Desert supports a substantial number of endemic animals particularly adapted to its extreme aridity. Concentrations of endemics also occur on the central ridge of rocky highlands and escarpment. Most freshwater animals are widely distributed along perennial rivers and in ephemeral wetlands. The diversity of reptiles in Namibia is one of the highest in Africa.
  • Animals in Namibia survive long dry periods between sporadic bouts of high primary production. Invertebrates and cold-blooded animals generally spend this time in a dormant state, often hidden underground, appearing only for short periods when conditions to feed and breed are favourable. Warm-blooded animals often move over large areas, opportunistically and nomadically in pursuit of the best supplies of food and/or water.
  • As well as animal movements within the country, Namibia is important regionally and globally, with many animals migrating to and from neighbouring countries, subregionally and hundreds of bird species covering vast distances during visits to Namibia as migrants or vagrants.
  • Significant numbers of six large carnivores have refuge in Namibia; their ranges in many other countries have been reduced by persecution and habitat degradation. The presence of these predators leads to conflicts with farmers in some areas. Balancing these costs against the benefits of wildlife to local economies in conservancies and the national economy is not easy.
  • Major hindrances and threats to animals include impacts of habitat transformation and loss, persecution, poaching and bush-meat harvesting, poisoning, human–wildlife conflict, fences that impede movements, over-harvesting of fish stocks, accidental catches of seabirds, power-line collisions and domestic cats. It is predicted that climate change impacts on Namibia's wildlife will become increasingly important.
  • Despite these human-induced impacts, Namibia's animal life has impressive diversity, population sizes, biomass and specialisations to the country's unusual environmental conditions.