Omusati farmers justify killing of lions

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Helvy Shaanika
Ongwediva

Farmers who controversially gunned down six lions in the Omusati Region said they were left with no choice as these big cats held the lives of their farm workers and their livestock hostage.

The latest incident of marauding lions came in spite of several calls they made to Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to address the lion menace.

One of the farmers in the area Ananias Iita said he had lost over 60 head of cattle to lions in the past 23 years.

In 1993, he tried to recover some of his livestock by taking the legal route after 34 of his animals were killed, but he lost the case.

In recent years, 70-year-old famer Johannes Iniko lost 34 while Natanael Sheehama lost 12 cattle to lions in 2009 alone. Natanael Sheehama is the father of David Kambwa Sheehama – one of the farmers involved in the most recent controversies.

In the latest incident farmers lost 21 head of cattle of which 19 belonged to farmer Andreas Nakukamo.

Iita said he called MET last month or early this month after people told him a pride of eight lions had escaped from Etosha.

“I later learnt that they had killed Ndakukamo’s livestock. Soon thereafter a team of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry, who were vaccinating animals in the area spotted four lions on my farm,” Iita explained.

He said he spoke to a senior official by the name Pirre, who then referred him to a warden, a certain Tashiya, who promised to go and search the area, but Tashiya and his team did not turn up until Saturday.

It was that Saturday when predators killed two cattle belonging to David Kambwa Sheehama and the same day Sheehama and the group of other farmers went after the lions.
Sheehama claims the predators held his farm workers and livestock hostage because they stationed themselves at the entrance of one of the camps at a cattle post.

There were also farm workers who where de-bushing, but due to fear, they remained in the tractor after they ran out of fuel.

“What choice did we have? The lives of our workers were at risk, and our livestock was at risk. And imagine a bull that you have bought for N$30 000 or N$40 000 and it is killed just like that, and if two of them are killed, imagine the loss?” Sheehama asked.

However, environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said the farmers’ actions were very disheartening as they had not only contravened the laws of the country but they had also damaged the country’s tourism industry.

“Our wildlife is not only protected by our national laws but also by the International Wildlife Convention. Now I am even getting international calls; people are complaining that Namibia is killing wild animals.

“The world does not think that it is one person’s act; they think that the whole country is doing that,” the tourism minister explained.

“Tourism is the highest contributor to our GDP. Tourism money goes to schools and roads, we cannot afford to damage it like that,” Shifeta said.

He feels farmers could have called his officials when they spotted the predators. They also had the option of applying to him for those lions to be declared problematic.

That way MET officials could come and put the down the animals or a trophy hunter would be invited. A trophy hunter would have paid money that would go back into the community.
Shifeta said the public had no right to kill endangered animals, even people who had hunting permits and that the only time members of the public could kill an endangered animal was in self-defence.
“As we speak Oshana Police officials are there investigating, and if it is found that those people have not acted in self-defence then they will be indicted,” Shifeta warned.

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