Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands by shooting or hunting problem-causing animals without the approval of the ministry. Shifeta said their officials have been directed to be on alert 24/7 to attend to cases of human-wildlife conflict, despite the financial constraints. He said the main problems occur on communal land, where most elephants and predators are found outside protected areas and where people are least able economically to bear the cost of damage and losses. The minister also noted that the serious and widespread drought in almost all of Namibia is aggravating the situation.
“People and wildlife in several places compete for the same resources. People, particularly in the Kunene Region, have simply invaded land set aside for wildlife by conservancies, consequently with severe conflicts. Nonetheless, there are ways to mitigate such conflicts and the ministry is engaged within its resource limits in this matter,” Shifeta remarked.
According to the environment minister, this has also resulted in livestock and crop losses, damage to water installations and in some instances, the loss of human life.
In the Kavango West Region, damage to crop fields of communities and the Musese Green Scheme Irrigation Projection has recently been reported. The main affected areas are Musese and Nzinze of the Kavango West, where about 100 elephants are estimated to occur in the area. They are suspected to have come from Angola or are a sub-population of elephants around Mangetti Cattle Ranch and Mangetti National Park. Additionally, several elephants have been collared to monitor their movements, while a relatively high number of incidents involving lion preying on livestock also occur in specific parts of Kunene. Shifeta said a variety of approaches can be implemented to manage the conflict effectively: “These include prevention strategies, which endeavour to avoid the conflict occurring in the first place and take action towards addressing its root causes, and protection strategies that are implemented when the conflict is certain to happen or has already occurred, as well as mitigation strategies that attempt to reduce the level of impact and lessen the problem”.
He further indicated the ministry would need to intensify the current activities designed to reduce human-wildlife conflict to become more effective, such as the removal of problem-causing animals, raising public awareness, stakeholders’ engagement and coordination amongst others. Shifeta also said the ministry intends to review the national policy on human-wildlife conflict management. “The new policy should be focused and specific on affected areas and the specific conflict should be addressed. The policy should also have an implementation plan that outlines the required human and financial resources required to deal with the problem.”
He said the environment ministry remains committed to managing human-wildlife conflict in a way that recognises the rights and developmental needs of local communities, as well as the need to promote biodiversity conservation and self-reliance, and to ensure that decision-making is quick, efficient and based on the best available information.
“In order to achieve this the ministry will continue to work with communities and farmers to develop and implement appropriate mitigation and monitoring methods and develop the capacity of all stakeholders to manage human-wildlife conflict,” the environment and tourism minister explained.