Elephants destroy large tracts of crops

By Rosalia David

THE Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta has said in 2020, elephants killed two cattle and damaged 3 346 hectares of crops for rural communities.

Responding to critics over the ministry’s decision to auction 170 elephants, Pohamba said there have been persistent problems caused by these animals, to the extent that the conflict become an intolerable burden on resident communities and a threat to human lives.

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“The elephants caused several damages to grain storages and houses where farmers keep fodder for livestock feed, repeatedly damaged several water infrastructure and fences and injured one person who is now disabled and has to live with that condition for the rest of his life,” he said.

He added that elephant conservation has to be a win- win situation for people to tolerate elephants in the long term.

“For this reason, elephant conservation and management cannot happen without involving the people that live closest to them. While elephants are part of our African heritage and are revered by many communities, they also exert a significant toll on rural communities and farmers,” he said.

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Pohamba explained that in different regions, elephants’ impact on water installations, infrastructure, gardens, livestock and crop farming threatened the livelihood security of many communities and individual small scale farmers.

He said elephants also impact commercial livestock farmers who have been tolerant and adapting their farming practices towards co-existence with the animals although some conflict remains.

“In light of all this, the Namibia government has accordingly established a range of incentives for people to co-exist with elephants, based on the intrinsic value of elephants.”

According to Shifeta, the incentives include affirming rights over wildlife resources through community-based natural resource management programme with 86 rural communities taking part in it through registered communal conservancies, promotion and facilitation of tourism investments in rural areas, conservation hunting and traditional use of elephants as a source of food.

He said the most important incentive which is the value that can be generated from trade in ivory is currently severely compromised  by the actions of animal rights groups who have influenced decisions at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that undermine the country’s conservation programmes.

He went on to say that, “For how long this is going to be the case is not unclear, but our tolerance is being severely tested. Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory and which if traded internationally could support the elephant conservation and management for decades to come.”

Pohamba said the ministry favours a collective approach on the regulation of international trade but ultimately, the ministry has to act in the interests of conservation and the rural people that are important in determining the fate of elephants in the long term.

“There are suggestions within our critics that we should overlook our own people’s plight at the expense of tourists to the country and the wishes of armchair conservationists thousands of kilometres away from us,” he stressed.

According to media reports, towards the end of January, there was a petition of over 100 000 signatures condemning the sale of elephants including conservationists who have questioned the population data and claim ‘human-elephant conflict’ is being used to justify the sale.