By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Two staff members of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism lost their lives this week after an aggressive bull elephant charged and trampled them. The incident took place on Monday afternoon in the Kavango Region. Minister of Environment and Tourism, Willem Konjore, yesterday announced the death of 58-year-old Kapinga Kasanga and 38-year-old Tekla Haseb who were attacked while executing their duties in the wilderness. According to Konjore, investigations have shown that a solitary elephant bull could have been angered by the unexpected presence of MET staff in the area. “The elephant still appeared aggressive and as a result it has been destroyed by the officials of the ministry,” Konjore said. The minister expressed his heartfelt condolences to families of the bereaved. He further urged Namibians to exercise great care in areas where elephants and other dangerous animals are present to avoid loss of lives. New Era established that the deceased were with four other staff members at the time the incident took place. While the six members were divided in two groups of three individuals, the wild animal is reported to have charged after a group of three people and when Haseb could not keep up with the speed, she was trampled. The elephant similarly killed Kasanga who attempted to run to Haseb’s rescue after he heard her screaming for help. The incident took place in Mahango game park, which is reported to have thick bush, hence the individuals could not easily see the animal. There is no white paper in the ministry that provides tips on how to behave when faced with a wild animal at close range. However, experts in wildlife say a distance should be maintained between a person and a wild animal as the behaviour of animals cannot always be predicted. While incidences involving staff members are rare, wild animal attacks almost became a trend last year when eight people were killed by crocodiles and hippos in the Caprivi and Kavango regions. In October 2006, 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 Konjore cautioned communities against taking risks against wild animals. All the crocodile attacks were on children who were swimming 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 northeast regions to warn their children swimming or bathing in the rivers that it was dangerous to do so as they could easily be caught and killed by crocodiles. The ministry has been inundated with requests for compensation from the pu-blic for damages caused by wildlife to human lives, but the ministry does not have a policy to compensate for losses caused by wildlife. 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.
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