The owners of 26 farms located in the vicinity of the Waterberg Plateau Park in the Otjozondjupa Region can now heave a sigh of relief after the buffalo that escaped from the park was traced to a government farm.
The farm where the buffalo was traced after it escaped on April 12 belongs to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and is adjacent to the park.
Confirming this to New Era, spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Romeo Muyunda, yesterday said the buffalo was spotted on the farm belonging to the ministry and that it had been there ever since its escape, thus reducing the risk of the buffalo transmitting foot-and-mouth disease to livestock on nearby farms.
All these farms had to be shut down as one of the precautionary measures put in place to safeguard the Namibian meat industry and to protect the interest of countries that import beef from Namibia.
Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Abraham Nehemia ordered swift action after the buffalo escaped, as Namibia does not allow buffalo outside national parks because of the risk of foot-and-mouth disease through the provisions of the Animal Health Act 1 of 2011.
According to the Act any buffalo that strays into farming areas is to be destroyed on sight.
Muyunda confirmed that initially a helicopter was used soon after the animal’s escape to try and track it down and later cameras were installed at water points to monitor animal movements.
The buffalo was eventually spotted on the adjacent farm and will now be brought back to the Waterberg Plateau Park as soon as possible.
A team of veterinary and wildlife officials had been on the nearby farms tracking, with the purpose of destroying the animal.
All 26 farms in the vicinity of the park have been declared as restricted areas where cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and game and any cloven-hoofed animal and products were not allowed to be removed after the buffalo escaped through a fence while officials were dehorning rhinos.
Muyunda denied that the game-proof fence was in a sorry state, as speculated by some after a spate of buffalo escapes over the past few years.
“Our ministry constantly monitors the state of the fence and we also monitor the movement of animals. We take the greatest caution as our international reputation is at stake,” he says.
Muyunda said all animal-gathering activities in these areas were suspended until the buffalo was spotted, and roadblocks were set up at strategic points to ensure compliance with the measures imposed. Now it’s back to business for the owners of the surrounding farms.
“Intensified surveillance by veterinary officials paid off and farmers and members of the public were also on the lookout for the stray buffalo,” he said.