Following several protests by residents of Kavango West Region whose crops were devoured by herds of marauding elephants, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has hired a professional hunter to put the problematic animals down.
The political leadership in the Kavango West Region has over the years been shocked by the large-scale destruction of crops by elephants, which has affected the livelihoods of many communities.
They complained that officials in the environment ministry poorly managed the whole situation making the protection of people and their crops problematic.
In an interview with New Era on Monday, Kavango West Regional Governor Sirkka Ausiku applauded the ministry for their positive response by sending a team of game rangers and a hunter to the area to control problematic elephants.
“We have been talking about the problem of elephants for a long time now in the region. We were not happy with the response from the ministry. They took it business as usual. The ministry used to say people should learn to live with elephants. But for us, as regional leadership, we thought it’s an emergency because it’s the first time we are seeing elephants in big numbers in a long time. So we wanted them even to camp at some villages like at Nzinze, to see,” she said.
She said elephants were terrorizing communities, forcing them to sometimes flee from their houses at night.
“It is not a situation you can just tell someone, from Windhoek, ‘let the community live with animals’. These elephants only come at night. But we are happy the Minister (Pohamba Shifeta) responded positively after we complained to the President (Hage Geingob). We just gave our frustration to the Head of State that we are not happy with the support we get from the line ministry,” she noted.
However, she said, the ministry had since the weekend dispatched a professional hunter to the area who had already put down a problematic elephant on Sunday at Nzinze village due to its hostile behaviour.
Another problematic elephant was also gunned down on Saturday by the same game rangers as it was destroying crops in the same area.
Ausiku said they were also trying to come up with a conservancy programme in the area where communities would be trained to live better with such animals.
Shifeta who confirmed the new developments, said part of the N$70 000 the professional hunter is going to pay to the Game Product Trust Fund will be transferred to the Kavango West Regional Council to assist the affected communities.
“We had to manage and declare some animals as problematic. Instead of just culling, we had to bring in a professional hunter so the community can benefit. He is ready to pay about N$70 000 to professionally hunt (the elephants),” he said.
Apart from the team on the ground, Shifeta said there was also a helicopter driving some of the elephants out of the area.
“They have migratory roads. They come as far as Angola and you must first determine where they are going before you drive them because if you force them they will just come back. We have collared some of them to see where they come from, one heard came from Angola,” he said.
He said his deputy minister, Tommy Nambahu will visit the region this week to speak to the political leadership and the community at large on how to handle and manage human-wildlife conflicts.
“We know the population of wild animals has increased. We also know the population of Namibia has increased. So people have started encroaching, putting up structures such as fields and bigger agricultural projects. But we found out some have no clearance certificates,” he said.
He advised communities to contact the ministry before putting up any projects or to get assistance and avoid blocking wildlife’s migratory routes.
“Elephants are not only coming today. Before independence we only had about 500 elephants, and today they are close to 30 000. They have no space to breath, therefore, the conflict is increasing. I want people to cooperate on this matter. If it’s a law required to develop such activities, then one has to get an environmental management plan to mitigate the impact before you get a certificate,” he urged.
It is believed that close to 300 in the Tondoro Constituency alone had their crops destroyed by elephants.