MET to Handle Habitat Conflict

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The growing increase in cases of conflict between humans and wildlife has prompted government to look into measures that will mitigate the impact these problems have on communities. An analysis of Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) in the country has found that between 2001 and 2004, there was a marked increase in incidents of conflict between humans and wildlife. Not only do the conflicts result in livestock losses, crop ruin and infrastructure damage to water and other installations in rural areas, but they also result in loss of human life. Although difficult to quantify in monetary terms, the Caprivi region for instance records an annual loss of about N$5.6 million to GDP. Caprivi, according to Dr Plip Stander in the situation analysis, by far outweighs all the other regions as regards the frequency of the conflicts. “It is a lot more serious than anywhere else,” he told participants to a Human Wildlife Conflict Management Policy Workshop yesterday. The situation analysis is one of three studies that were commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in order to get an understanding of the HWC issue at both national and local levels. The other studies were on the Human and Wildlife Conflict along the Northern Border of Etosha National Park and a Survey on the State of Human Wildlife Conflict in Ehirovipuka and Omatendeka Conservancies. The government acknowledges that the problem has always been there and will continue to exist, hence ways have to be found to manage the situation. It thus came up with a National Policy on Human-Wildlife Conflict Management Policy as a way of balancing the needs of the people with the aims of biodiversity conservation. Still in its draft form, the policy will look into the economic impact of HWC on communities, identify an appropriate level of decision making for managing the problem, prevent conflict and minimize the likely damage to be caused and also develop skills of all stakeholders to manage HWC efficiently and effectively. Communities have all along undertaken a number of measures to mitigate the impact of the problem, such as herding and kraaling livestock, killing problem animals and fencing among others. But according to Stander, to deal with the HWC, there is need to implement management systems at the local level. “Even if there is a national policy, local management strategies will be more appropriate,” he said. The survey in three regions, namely Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto, which form the northern border of the Etosha Park, found that the proximity of communities to the national park makes them prone to property losses. John Mufune of the Multi Disciplinary Research and Consultancy Centre noted most common problems were loss of livestock, destruction to crops and injury to humans. In these areas, lions were reported to be the most problematic, followed by jackals, leopards and cheetahs. The study could not establish the number of livestock losses because of the absence of an objective and practical method to ascertain and confirm the losses. Elephants cause problems during the crop growing season and when the water pans run dry. Since the emergence of communal area conservancies, communities benefit in a number of ways that include cash, meat distribution and employment opportunities. While this is the case, those who suffer losses bear the costs of living with wildlife because they receive no compensation and generally receive little assistance in managing problems with wildlife.

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