Beasts Terrorizing Rural Community

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Communal farmers in the Grootberg area of Sesfontein face the ever-mounting challenge of human wildlife conflict. They suspect that the elephant population has increased, resulting in a larger degree of damages to property such as dams, windmills and fences. Sesfontein Regional Constituency Councillor, Hendrik Gaobaeb, told New Era yesterday that this has come as an additional cost to communities who took over the management of water point committees. “Some of the water points have been handed over to the communities, and people must maintain them, buy diesel, and it is not only for people but for the elephants as well,” he said. Although elephant numbers have increased from 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500 in 1988 to about 20ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 at present, the increase in the constituency could not be independently confirmed at the time of going to press. The problem has been ongoing, but the councillor said the increase in the population of the elephants has aggravated the situation. Gaobaeb said that although some quarters believe the numbers have remained pretty much the same, Gaobaeb wants the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to determine the number through aerial surveys, after which the conservancies could be quotas to use and earn money not only to repair damaged infrastructure but also to compensate people. Sesfontein Constituency alone has six conservancies, namely: Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka, Grootberg, Anabeb, Sesfontein and Torra. The problem is worse in Grootberg where, the councillor saidl compensation would be unthinkable because almost all the farmers in that area are equally affected. “Elephants are even coming to people’s homesteads,” he said. Some parents could not even take their children to school on time last year because of elephants. Last week at Park Talk 8, a bi-monthly discussion forum dedicated to the country’s national parks and their management, MET Permanent Secretary, Dr Malan Lindeque, said the country’s elephant population has increased to around 20ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 from 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500 in 1988. He said wildlife was capable of rapid recovery although this brought in management issues, with the challenge being how to reduce the population. “We need to engage and inform the public that they do not fear that things will be done to animals they love or despise,” he added. The constituency is looking at emulating what other conservancies are doing to compensate the losses arising from Human Wildlife Conflict such as the Torra Conservancy. The Torra Conservancy, one of the first conservancies to be gazetted, which is also self-sustaining, planned to start a livestock-breeding project from which it would get animals to replace those that have been killed by predators, for instance. Emil Roman, Torra Conservancy Manager, said the project however did not take off and what has been happening to date is that when an animal catches livestock often, the animal is declared a problem and the conservancy applies to the ministry to have it killed. The conservancy then calls in a trophy-hunter who shoots the animal for a trophy and pays the community the money, with which the affected people are compensated. For the loss of a cow, a conservancy gets N$800, with the loss of a sheep, a donkey and a goat being compensated at N$200, N$220 and N$150 respectively. Apart from elephants, cheetah and baboons are also responsible for losses of livestock in Sesfontein.