Namibia’s treasures of flora and fauna
Namibia’s climate, history, and landscape don’t shriek of typical tourist attractions. The country’s famous red desert is dry, barren, and difficult to navigate without a serious 4×4 and some friends who know what they’re doing (and don’t forget to take a spare tyre or two), nevermind an accurate GPS. But there’s a reason why Namibia remains a popular tourism destination for those who know how to appreciate the stark landscape and a soulful connection with nature.
Despite the dry conditions and the austere qualities of the desert, a Namibia holiday wouldn’t be complete without an appreciation for the ability of the local flora and fauna to have survived the climate, environmental conditions, as well as human encroachment. Many species of insects, birds, and mammals have adapted to not only survive, but thrive in the arid conditions of Namibia.
You’d think that with so little rainfall, Namibia’s plants would have a hard time, but they have adapted to withstand the harsh, desert-like conditions. There are 4 334 species of plants in Namibia, of which 683 are endemic to the country.
Namibia’s fauna consists of a wide variety of about 200 species of land mammals, 40 marine mammals, 115 species of fish, 50 species of frogs, 250 species of reptiles, an estimated (potential) 5 650 species of arachnids, and 6 331 recorded species of insects. Despite the recorded number of insects, there is an estimate of approximately 35 000 species of insects. Namibia is home to about 640 species of birds, of which 14 are endemic to the country; and 26 species of freshwater snails have been recorded, and 13 types of bivalves.
State of the flora and fauna
Namibia has nine national parks – of which Etosha National Park and Waterberg National Park are the most well-known – and four nature reserves. The parks and reserves are located in areas where there is more bushveld; closer to the centre and north of the country, and the wildlife has space in which to thrive, with enough food to eat. Some of the park areas also constitute the coastal desert dunes, which are harshly inhospitable at best.
Namibia has suffered losses to its populations of fauna and currently has a few species that are endangered and near extinction. The Puku antelope populations are dangerously low, with approximately 100 individuals in Botswana and Namibia. Rhino poaching has affected both black and white species and serious conservation efforts in the last two decades have been the only prevention of their extinction. More than 20 species of antelope – both large and small – as well as mongoose, jackal, antbear and honey badger have had to be protected in order to stay off the endangered species lists and save them from extinction.
Tourism in Namibia has a very strong focus on eco-tourism and contributes approximately 14.5% to Namibia’s GDP. 18.2% of employment is in the tourism sector, thanks to over one million tourists who come to Namibia annually – a great percentage of whom travel to the national parks and game reserves to see the country’s precious wildlife.