The Ukwangali traditional leader Hompa Eugene Siwombe Kudumo has requested the environment ministry to educate his subjects on how they could coexist with the hundreds of elephants that have in recent weeks devoured entire crop fields in Kavango West region.
The hompa made the request on Tuesday when the Deputy Minister of Environment and TourismTommy Nambahu paid him a courtesy visit in regard to building a better relationship between the traditional leaders in the area where elephants have invaded crop fields.
The hompa told the deputy minister that if his subjects are taught the correct behaviour on how to act once they are near an elephant, that might bring down the fear levels of humans towards elephants as now people panic even if elephants are just passing by and they try to chase the beasts away.
“Some are exaggerating the elephant issue – some of the things being said are not how they are happening. Elephants have no safe habitat because everywhere they go there are people living and people are using different ways. Some light fires and some start hitting metal objects and other things just to chase them away and that makes them aggressive as they also panic and get defensive. They feel insecure and threatened as well,” the hompa said.
He told Nambahu that the traditional authority has identified a few areas that are vast and suitable for a park or conservancy, where people will not be allowed to live, but to make it a place where elephants can be moved in order also to generate income through domestic tourism.
He also suggested that elephant corridors should be identified where people are not allowed to live – to mitigate the upsurge in human/wildlife conflict.
“Elephants have nowhere to go as people are scattered everywhere, and even if we take the elephants to a certain area, they will move where they want to go but at least if we can allow them certain places where they can rest and be secure and move as they please, because currently if they move in the forest they enter farms or get near homesteads and people panic because they don’t know how to react once they see elephants; they just need to be educated,” the hompa added.
According to the hompa people need to be educated to be calm because currently when they see elephants they alert their neighbours and start screaming, “Nzovhu, nzovhu … People must be taught how to live with elephants, an elephant can pass there and will not harm you, not necessarily when you see an elephant then you are going to die. It’s only when you make them insecure or tamper with them that they get angry, confused and aggressive. So people should really get educated on that; they need to know that if they see an elephant moving in their area what should they do.” The deputy minister said he was grateful for the ideas that the hompa suggested and the ministry will consider them as he was visiting in order to find solutions to the current human/wildlife conflict in Kavango West. The hompa further spoke on the issue of compensation which in his eyes is not a solution. “Compensation can never be enough for a person’s life,” he said. “For us we are very happy that we can work together; from here I will be reporting to my minister to start ordering people to start implementing the ideas that I got from the two hompas that I have visited today.
“I visited Hompa Alfons Kaundu of the Mbunza people of Kavango West before coming to see Hompa Eugene Kudumo of Ukwangali. There are solutions that have been accepted and it’s only a matter of implementation. I personally would like to see results,” Nambahu said.