Washing bays to reduce croc attacks

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Chrispin Inambao

Rundu

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has hinted at cordoning off and installing what he termed washing bays at certain spots along the Kavango River as an intervention to contain attacks on humans by crocodiles, which frequently kill residents of the two Kavango regions.

This was revealed in a recent interview with New Era by the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu, and subsequently at a town hall-style community consultative meeting at the Rundu Trade Fair Centre that was also addressed by Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo.

Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa, Kavango East Governor Dr Samuel Mbambo, Kavango West Governor Sirkka Ausiku, and over one thousand residents of Kavango East and Kavango West were among the people that attended the recent consultative meeting that marked the end of the six-day visit to the two Kavango regions by Iyambo and his delegation.

During the highly interactive sessions and more so at the green schemes at Musese in Kavango West, Sikondo irrigation scheme, Mashare irrigation scheme and Ndonga Linena irrigation scheme the various project managers briefed the vice-president on the upsurge in human-wildlife conflict.

At Musese elephants caused crop and equipment damage of N$5 million. At the green scheme run by the Divundu correctional facility they extensively damaged the fence. As if this were not enough of a nagging headache, Kavango East Governor Mbambo said 175 livestock were killed by wild animals, mostly crocodiles, and this happened last year alone and so far this year the stock losses stand at 51 in Kavango East.

In 2016 three people were killed by crocodiles and two were mauled to death by hippos, while in the first four months of this year four people lost their lives to crocodile attacks and three were killed by hippos. All these incidents happened in Kavango East and exclude such attacks in Kavango West.

Last year several hectares of millet and maize were destroyed mostly by elephants, said Mbambo, who attributed the increase in human-wildlife conflict to human population growth as more and more humans are encroaching on wildlife habitats and build villages in wildlife corridors.

On crocodile attacks, Nambahu was pragmatic, saying some of the people have been caught and killed by these giant, man-eating reptiles while washing their clothes in the river.

“Isn’t it possible for us to create spots where washing could take place? We could call them washing bays. We could look into that and try to cordon off or put a fence at these spots,” he suggested.
Nambahu also feels crocodile farming should be considered to possibly decongest the rivers.

On so-called problem elephants he said proper feasibility studies should have been undertaken to ensure the green schemes are not situated on the migratory paths of elephants that annually roam from Namibia to Angola, Zambia and Botswana, according to a study undertaken by the ministry.

During one environmental study that was made on the jumbos it was discovered some of these green schemes “are in the migratory routes of these elephants”.

“We have for example here in Namibia a population of around 22 000 resident elephants but other countries have more and some of the elephants that we have we have identified here – we collared them – and we are monitoring their movements. Their movements have been traced at times in Botswana, at times in Zambia, the same have been spotted in Angola, so meaning Namibia is in-between and those elephants do pass here, so whoever is making those kind of (intervention) measures has to take into account where do these elephants pass? Where do they transit from? Where do they go?” said the deputy minister who feels the issue needs to be put into context because it is complex and multi-faceted, especially when mitigation measures are considered.

It was suggested to some of the green schemes to use locally concocted tear gas consisting of peri-peri smoke ‘bombs’ in the same manner football hooligans are usually subdued using tear gas, as elephants apparently do not like the smell of peri-peri.

Another methodology that could be effective is to dig trenches around the green schemes, though this measure was ruled out because it is prohibitively capital-intensive and almost impractical to implement.

Another solution that could keep these pachyderms at bay from the melons and other juicy pickings is to install boreholes that could supply these mammals with their own water.

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