By Charles Tjatindi
The presence of elephants in the Omatjete reserve and its surroundings poses problems to residents in the area. Not only do the elephants pose danger to human lives, but they also destroy crops and water point terminals, making life extremely difficult for the residents.
According to residents, a man was killed mid-last year after being trampled by an elephant. He was tending to his goats at a water point in the Otjohorongo area, when he met his fate. Although he tried to run away from a charging elephant, another one – which the deceased did not see – trampled him, killing him instantly.
Fabianus Uaseuapuani, a traditional councillor in the Omaruru-based Zeraua Traditional Authority related how a young woman recently escaped death when she encountered the jumbos while walking her children to a nearby school but managed to escape.
Uaseuapuani said the elephants destroy almost anything that farmers in the area try to plant, leaving them entirely vulnerable to hunger.
“These elephants are a big problem. In some villages, some people have moved from their homes to higher grounds in fear of the elephants. These elephants do not go anywhere, they just graze in the dry river bed and then wander to the residents’ homes where they cause destruction,” he said.
Juda Haakuria, a senior traditional councillor in the Zeraua Traditional Authority, and acting Chief due to incumbent chief Christian Zeraua’s ill health, echoed Uaseuapuani’s sentiments. He added that the absence of clear directives from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on what course of action to take regarding the elephants makes it extremely difficult to control the situation. He noted that the absence of policies that would entitle farmers whose crops and fields are destroyed by elephants to compensation is of great concern.
“We held different meetings with officials from the ministry [of Environment and Tourism], but no real solution has been forthcoming. The question is where do we send these elephants? I guess they were driven out by people where they came from,” he said.
The shortage of water in the area is said to have worsened due to the elephants, which destroy the water infrastructure. Villagers around Omatjete have been struggling to get enough water for themselves and their livestock from boreholes and wells, which are either too shallow, or simply do not have sufficient water and have a short life span. Villagers also raised concern over the aggressive attitude displayed by the elephants in their area.
Said one villager: “We used to be told that elephants only attack when injured or disturbed, but this is not the case with our elephants here. They attack you once they get sight of you … even if they have to pursue you for a long distance.”
Haakuria said his traditional authority is plans to hold meetings with officials from the ministry to look into the issue of elephants.
“We are trying very hard. In the end, we probably have to see how nature can support both man and elephant, although it would be difficult. I mean, you can teach people to live along with elephants, but how on earth do you teach the elephants,” he asked.
Omatjete is situated about 60 km west of Omaruru in the Erongo region.