Query: Ministerial response to recent reports of human-wildlife conflict.
Response: The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) is concerned with the escalating cases of human wildlife conflict particularly those involving elephants in the northern parts of the country. Recently the ministry has been receiving many reports of elephants destroying crop fields in the Northern Regions of the country.
In this regard, the ministry wishes to extend its empathy to the farmers who continue to suffer losses, because of these elephants. The ministry fully understands that crop cultivation is a source of livelihood for many people in rural areas particularly in the affected regions. Therefore the impact such damages may have cannot be over emphasised.
For this reason, the ministry would do everything possible within the framework of our laws and policies to ensure that such damages or losses are minimised or ultimately stopped as matter of urgency.
To this end, a team of MET officials have been deployed to assist farmers in affected areas to avoid or minimise the damages. Additionally, the officials are doing a situation analysis that will inform our next cause of action in our efforts to assist our esteemed farmers.
The ministry believes the herd is led by an aggressive elephant and a directive was given to the officials on the ground to identify such elephant. Once identified, it will be recommended to be declared a problem by the minister.
Once the elephant is declared a problem animal, it is the intension of the ministry to have the elephant hunted, so that the proceeds can be given to the community and affected farmers. Human wildlife conflict cases have become frequent in the northern regions, that include lion and elephant conflicts, among others, and the ministry has committed resources to tackle these challenges.
However, based on the frequency of these cases, we appeal to community members and farmers alike to exercise some patience as the ministry works around the clock to resolve this situation. We urge community members not to take the law into their own hands and further encourage them to work closely with the officials deployed to assist them.
While these elephants are in close vicinity to communal areas we call upon the people in those areas to refrain from walking in the bushes at night and making gestures that may anger the elephants, so that we avoid loss of human lives, injuries or attacks on human beings.
It is important to point out that the wildlife endowment that is found in Namibia plays a very important role in terms of tourism attraction to thousands of visitors that contribute to economic development and create employment. The Ministry Environment and Tourism (MET) is cognizant of numerous challenges that our rural communities are experiencing as result of human-wildlife conflict.
The ministry is currently reviewing the Human Wildlife Conflict Management Policy in order to come up with region specific responses to deal with this phenomenon. Regional and national stakeholder consultations have taken place in form of workshops and conferences to enhance our efforts to ensure that the policy will be responsive to the current issues.
Romeo Muyunda, chief public relations officer in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, E-mail: Romeo.Muyunda@met.gov.na