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‘We had no part in hunting Mwezi the lion’ – WildVeld Safaris

‘We had no part in hunting Mwezi the lion’ – WildVeld Safaris
Mwezi, the collared desert lion that was hunted. (Photo: Supplied)

On or around 12 October 2023, Izak Smit disseminated a statement attributing baseless allegations to Mark Misner and WildVeld Safaris, purporting our engagement in the contentious hunt of Mwezi, a lion, within a conservancy located in the Kunene Region, Namibia. These allegations are devoid of substance and are vehemently denied.

We categorically deny any involvement in the hunting of Mwezi, the lion, as alleged by Izak Smit, either directly or indirectly. Neither the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism of Namibia (MEFT) nor the conservancy had forewarned us about the hunt. 

This was due to the nature of the relationship between WildVeld, the partner conservancies and MEFT being distinctively different from what was portrayed by Smit in his callous statement. 

WildVeld Safaris functioned as a not-for-profit entity, partnering with conservancies in the Kunene Region, Namibia, to manage hunting leases on behalf of the conservancies, to facilitate their contracts with professional hunting operators, ensuring that the conservancy communities received their rightful funds, and to monitor compliance of professional hunting operators to their contractual obligations with the conservancies – all in the spirit of conservation.

WildVeld Safaris neither employed hunters nor orchestrated hunting expeditions, nor did we market hunting opportunities or accept remuneration from hunting operators within the conservancies. 

Regrettably, the widespread dissemination of Smit’s unfounded accusations significantly hindered our ability to counteract the repercussions. 

As a welfare organisation reliant on donor contributions, WildVeld was vulnerable to the backlash from donors reluctant to be associated with the controversy surrounding WildVeld, leading to major donors at once terminating their pledges to us. 

Consequently, WildVeld Safaris was deprived of operational funds, compelling us to discontinue our activities. 

Furthermore, our annual conservation commitment exceeding N$1-million to our partner conservancies was also withdrawn. 

The conservancy community members who were employed by us suffered devastating consequences, being rendered jobless as a result of the closure of WildVeld. 

Additionally, the game guard programme within the conservancy, which we supported, was discontinued. 

These dedicated individuals played a crucial role in combating poaching and alleviating human-wildlife conflicts. In their absence, we fear the potential escalation in wildlife loss.

We are currently deliberating legal recourse against Smit, and all our rights are hereby expressly reserved. DM

Mark Misner runs WildVeld Safaris.

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