Eight Die in Wildlife Attacks

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Eight people were killed by crocodiles and hippos in the space of three months in Caprivi and Kavango. Beginning October, communities in the two regions lost six lives to crocodiles and two to hippos in the Chobe, Zambezi and Kavango rivers. Concerned with this spate of killings, Environment and Tourism Minister Willem Konjore has cautioned riparian communities against taking risks that may result in further loss of lives. All the crocodile attacks were on children who were swimming or bathing in the rivers while the two who lost their lives to crocodiles were fishing. “This situation is worrisome and raises many concerns,” said Konjore who also urged parents and community leaders living along the rivers in the north-east regions to warn their kids swimming or bathing in the rivers that it was dangerous to do so as they could easily be caught and killed by crocodiles. Likewise, Konjore said: “Those fishing should be very careful, vigilant and conduct their fishing in the safest manner.” In 2005, four people lost their lives to crocodiles and Deputy Director: Wildlife Management, Colgar Sikopo, said this year’s cases happened in a short period of time and in close succession. The incidents usually happen as from September when the heat usually drives people especially children to cool off in the rivers. In the Kavango, five crocodiles and one hippo were responsible for the deaths while one crocodile and one hippo each were responsible for the deaths in the Caprivi. In the Caprivi the incidents took place at Nankuntwe and Ijambwe, with the deadly attacks involving one crocodile and one hippo respectively, while in the Kavango it was two crocodiles at Thipanana, one crocodile each at Mukwe, Shamvura and Mupini and one hippo at Nzinze. As a result, the ministry has been inundated with requests for compensation from the public for damages caused by wildlife to human lives, but the ministry does not have a policy to compensate for losses caused by wildlife. Konjore said it has been proven in other countries that compensation is extremely expensive and difficult to verify and manage, much as it is difficult to access and determine the value of losses caused by wildlife especially when it comes to human life. The ministry is however developing a policy to deal with Human Wildlife Conflict Management that will cover areas of devolution of human wildlife conflict management authorities, community based natural resource management, self-insurance schemes, alternative mitigation measures and a standardised monitoring scheme. Konjore said these are being created to reduce the level of human-wildlife conflict to ensure that the benefits of conservation management far outweigh the costs and build on the significant successes in managing the conflict. As part of the ministry’s intervention to lessen the pain on people, the Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) pays N$5 000 for funeral assistance to families that have lost their loved ones to wildlife. Communities can also apply to the GPTF for funds to carry out specific activities, which can include projects to lessen human-wildlife conflict. One innovative measure by conservancies includes crocodile enclosures that the Kasika conservancy in the Caprivi started in 2005 and has reduced the number of attacks on humans. Sikopo said other conservancies in East Caprivi such as Kwando, Mayuni and Mashi emulate these measures. These measures are however not yet being implemented in the Kavango.