By Albertina Nakale
WINDHOEK – The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) remains challenged in the midst of the ever-increasing human-wildlife conflict (HWC) with a record of four people killed by crocodiles from the beginning of 2014 to date, especially in the two Kavango regions.
Last year, the ministry justified its issuing of hunting permits for desert elephants by saying that HWC has escalated, with more than 5 000 incidents recorded last year.
In some of these incidents, human lives were lost in elephant attacks. At the same time, the ministry also warned non-governmental organisations and individuals illegally conducting research on elephants that action would be taken against them.
“It is a concern for the ministry,” MET Chief Public Relations Officer, Romeo Muyunda, said on Friday.
“We continue to lose human lives year in, year out. Not only do animals attack humans but also you find elephants destroying crops where people are trying to strike their livelihoods.
“They also destroy water and electricity infrastructure. We cannot completely eradicate HWC but we try as much as possible to manage and mitigate the impact.”
Currently, the total population of elephants in the country is estimated at 20 000. The north-western elephants number about 4 000, including those in the Etosha National Park, while the north-eastern population is estimated at over 16 000.
In the Kunene Region, 391 elephants were recently counted with a biologically sound sex ratio.
Asked what the ministry is doing to tackle HWC, especially when it comes to elephant, hippo and crocodile attacks, Muyunda said they are managing it in a way that recognizes the right and development needs of the people, recognizes the need to promote biodiversity conservation, promotes self-reliance and ensures that decisions on the ground are quick and based on the best available information.
He added that the ministry is working with communities to create sufficient economic and other benefits from the use of wildlife so that rural communities will view wildlife as an asset rather a liability as well as developing and implementing the best appropriate technical solutions for mitigating human-wildlife conflict.
Building the capacity of stakeholders, including communities in dealing with human-wildlife conflict and implementing human-wildlife conflict self-reliance schemes, are other measures he pointed out.
Problem-causing animals are also removed where necessary, he said.
“One of our technical solutions where there are parks, is that we do animal-proof fencing so they (wild animals) don’t come out to disturb people. We also enclose dangerous animals in protected areas. Further, we also ensure that national parks do not have a lot of people residing in them,” he said.
Moreover, Muyunda urged people to be vigilant when walking in the wild alone. He also urged people to be careful when making use of rivers, especially in the Zambezi and Kavango regions.
“People must stay away from the banks of the rivers after fetching water. There was an incident where a child was dragged into the water by a crocodile while the mother was busy washing clothes. So, people must be vigilant because those animals live in the water. It is their ecosystem,” he cautioned.