How Wildlife Credits works

Building on Success

With a Constitution that enshrines the protection of wildlife and legislation that empowers local communities, Namibia has become a global example for linking communities, conservation and tourism through its communal conservancy programme.

There are 86 registered conservancies in Namibia, and one in four rural Namibians lives in a conservancy where they are partners in conservation and community development. 

Until now, two main income streams have helped to balance the cost of wildlife to communities:

  • Lodges and tourism: In Namibia’s communal conservancies, the private sector forms partnership with conservancies to build and operate lodges and tourism operations. They provide jobs and training to community members, while the income from these joint ventures is used to pay for conservation activities such as anti-poaching patrols, and for benefits to local communities.
  • Conservation hunting: Legal hunting of wildlife according to strict quotas set by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is used to conserve species by providing an economic incentive to keep wildlife on the land. Hunting provides an income in areas where tourism and agriculture are not economically viable. The result has been the recovery of wildlife in the communal areas.

However, for conservation to endure and species to thrive, we need bold new ideas that create solutions, which allow Africans to capitalise and protect their competitive advantage in the world – their wildlife.

Wildlife Credits is one of these solutions. It unlocks the value of wildlife and provides an important additional income stream, which allows wildlife to pay for itself on communal lands.

Wildlife Credits: The approach

Wildlife Credits generates funds from local, national, and international sources based on independently verified conservation performance by communal conservancies. This additional income stream is a joint venture between conservancies, tour operators, conservation groups and the international community, raising funds for wildlife and habitat from conservation performance payments. The first phase of Wildlife Credits has begun in Namibia, based on monitoring sightings of iconic wildlife species at tourist lodges.

Namibia's community conservation successes

Community conservation encompasses over 166,000 km2, about 20% of Namibia, and around 238,000 residents. In 2021, it generated about N$91 million for local communities, and facilitated 3,548 jobs through enterprises including tourism, conservation hunting, indigenous plant harvesting and craft production.

Natural resource management includes monitoring using the Event Book, an annual game count incorporating over 50 conservancies, implementation of wildlife management plans, zonation plans and more.

For more information visit the Community Conservation website.

How conservation performance is measured

Photo: Frans Lanting

Monitoring wildlife sightings of iconic species

As the number of independently verified sightings of iconic species increases, so do the payments made towards the conservation of those species to the communtities protecting them.

Photo: SRT/Dave Hamman Photography

Monitoring breeding successes of iconic species

As the independently verified breeding success of iconic species increases, so do the payments made towards the conservation of those species to the communtities protecting them.

Photo: NACSO/WWF in Namibia

Monitoring management and performance of land used by wildlife

As the independently verified management successes of landscapes and corridors increase, more payments are made directly to communities that have set aside the land for wildlife use.

How Wildlife Credits are generated


Lodges participating in Wildlife Credits pay a fixed amount for each sighting of iconic species on game drives.


The programme leverages a secured, contractual payment at a national level in Namibia to match each sighting.


Sponsors of Wildlife Credits worldwide are invited and encouraged to add to the national payment.

The funds generated by conservation performance are paid into individual accounts established by Local Conservation Areas for specified wildlife species. The accounts are managed by local trustees made up from representatives of the conservancy and a private sector joint venture tourism partner, or alternatively a local conservation NGO active in the conservancy. A conservancy and its partner have equal voting rights and signing powers on the account.

How Wildlife Credit funds are used

The trustees allocate the funds, based on local level priorities for the specified wildlife. The following activities will be considered for funding:

Wildlife management and protection

Activities focus on reducing conflicts between people and wildlife, protecting wildlife, and preventing poaching.

Household damage offset claims

Damage caused by wildlife can have severe effects on rural households, such as damage to water infrastructure, loss of income from crops due to crop raiders, loss of livestock to predators, injuries and loss of life.

Wildlife monitoring and research

Activities provide estimates of wildlife population trends and movements, with targeted research providing additional and specific information that can prevent human wildlife conflict.

Tolerance of wildlife on communal land

There are opportunity costs of living with wildlife too. For example, wildlife occupies land and grazing that people could otherwise use solely for agriculture, and predators hunt wildlife that would otherwise provide food and income.

Species supported by Wildlife Credits are those that cause problems or costs to conservancies, are iconic and sometimes endangered. Wildlife Credits payments to local communities can be used to protect crops and livestock from the losses these species cause, and to pay compensation for losses. The increased flow of money into the community can also enable development benefits.

Mitigation measures

In the sandy soil desert soil, Laurencius Antabo grows apples and oranges. He’s an enterprising man, but he has a large problem: elephants. They break down the wooden fence around the his home and rip up his fruit trees. Water is from a diesel pump protected by an elephant proof wall, and is pumped down to a dam where the thirsty giants can drink. Laurencius needs an elephant proof wall for his garden as well, so that his farming can thrive beside the elephants.

Life with buffalos

Lucia Kandambo lives in George Mukoya Conservancy in Kavango. One afternoon she was weeding the field when she was attacked by a buffalo. As it drew close, Lucia made a dive into the ground and the buffalo dived after her, spearing its horns into the ground, which gave Lucia time to scramble away in the confusion. Mitgation measures can include fencing for fields, to keep out elephants, buffalos and hippos, which not only raid crops, but threaten lives.

Improved compensation

It was the middle of the night when farmer Dominic Machili heard the dogs barking near the cattle kraal. Lions took three of his cattle in one week. His kraal, a ring of thorny Acacia karroo, was not enough to keep the predator out. It had broken through a thin section and dragged a cow away into the bush. The conservancy does compensate residents for crop losses to elephants and livestock loss to predators, but the money from tourism and hunting is not enough to pay full compensation.

Chilli bombs

The Kakwenga family is numerous enough to have its own village. Priority number one is conservation agriculture: growing more food on a small field using sustainable techniques to capture water. Priority number two is keeping elephants away from the fields, while giving them more territory to forage for food. Chilli bombs are made from elephant dung and chillies. The pungent mixture burns slowly and deters elephants. Growing chillies is a vital mitigation method which can be funded from Wildlife Credits.

Transforming lives with simple solutions

Nyazo Mushekwa is doing her homework with a solar light. Conservancies in Zambezi Region are transforming lives with simple solutions that require cash. Wildlife Credits can provide ‘Household Offsets’ – cash in return for protecting wildlife – that can be used for development by Zambezi Conservancies like Wuparo, a participant in the scheme with Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge.