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We report on a rapid survey of five communal-area conservancies in Namibia to understand initial impacts on community-based conservation of national and international policies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme has been growing for over 30 years, with high economic reliance on tourism and conservation hunting. We review the interrelationships between COVID-19, CBNRM, tourism and hunting, and discuss our findings under eight interlocking themes: 1) disruption to management and regular operational processes of conservancies, including 2) effects on conservancy wildlife patrolling and monitoring; 3) losses of revenue and cash flow in conservancy business operations; 4) impacts on Joint-Venture Partnerships; 5) impacts on employment opportunities and local livelihoods; 6) effects on community development projects and social benefits, including 7) disruption to funded projects and programmes; and 8) lack of technical capacity regarding communication technologies and equipment. In our conclusion we discuss tensions between an assumption that normal business can or will be resumed, and calls for the COVID-19 pandemic to create an opportunity for global choices away from ‘business-as-normal’. It is too early to tell what mix of these perspectives will unfold. What is clear is that communal-area conservancies must derive benefits from conservation activities in their areas that are commensurate with their role as key actors in the conservation of Namibia’s valuable wildlife and landscapes.
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