Environment ministry vows to deal with problematic wildlife

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KATIMA MULILO, 05 AUGUST 2013 - A herd of elephants spotted in the Bwabwata National Park. (photo by: Pearl Coetzee) NAMPA

Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has dispatched officials to various regions in the country to identify problem animals among wildlife that have encroached on human settlements.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, the ministry is currently concerned about the escalating cases of human-wildlife conflict, particularly involving elephants in the northern parts of the country.

Farmers in the north have been experiencing severe crop destruction due to elephants invading their fields.

It has been reported that about 15 to 20 elephants left farmers at Amaupa village in the Omusati Region without any harvest after the massive beasts wiped through nearly the entire plantation last month.

There have also been lion attacks in the north where the big cats are killing livestock. The farmers have retaliated by killing the lions.

Muyunda noted the ministry believes the elephant herd is being led by an aggressive elephant and a directive was given to officials on the ground to identify the leader.

“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 intention of the ministry to have the elephant hunted, so that the proceeds can be given to the community and affected farmers.”

Human-wildlife conflict has become frequent in the northern regions, which includes lion and elephant conflicts, and the ministry has committed resources to tackle these challenges.
Muyunda expressed sympathy with farmers who keep losing their hard-earned crops to elephants. He revealed that a team of ministry officials has been deployed to assist in the affected areas to avoid or minimize damage.

He said the officials are doing a situation analysis that will inform the ministry’s efforts to assist affected farmers.

Muyunda maintains that the ministry fully understands that crop cultivation is a source of livelihood for people in rural areas, particularly in the affected regions.

“Therefore the impact such damages may have cannot be overemphasized. For this reason, the ministry will do everything possible within the framework of our laws and policies to ensure that such damages or losses are minimized or ultimately stopped as a matter of urgency,” Muyunda said.

He appealed to community members, including farmers, to exercise patience as the ministry works around the clock to resolve the situation.

Further, he urged people not to take the law into their own hands and encouraged them to work closely with government officials deployed to assist them.

Since the elephants are in close vicinity to communal areas, he called on villagers in those areas to refrain from walking around in the bushes at night and making gestures that may anger elephants, so that they avoid loss of human lives, injuries or attacks on human beings.

He said the ministry is currently reviewing the Human-Wildlife Conflict Management Policy in order to come up with specific responses to deal with the issue.

“Regional and national stakeholder consultations have taken place already in the form of workshops and conferences towards our efforts to ensure the policy will be responsive to current issues,” he said.

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