Buffalo still on the cards for Erindi

A new appeal will be heard regarding the approval of buffalo for the Erindi Private Game Reserve.

13 September 2019 | Agriculture

A fresh appeal will be held to decide whether buffalo may be translocated to the Erindi Private Game Reserve, which will make it the first-ever 'Big Five' game reserve in Namibia.

This follows an order by the Windhoek High Court this week, after chief veterinarian in the agriculture ministry, Adrianatus Florentius Maseke, opposed a decision by an appeal board in 2017 to allow the introduction of buffalo at Erindi.

Maseke requested the court to review and set aside the decision made by the appeal board, which was appointed by the ministry.

Two years ago, he rejected a request by Erindi to acquire and translocate about 500 buffalo from the Waterberg Plateau Park.

In his affidavit, Maseke said when he made his decision on 14 August 2017 to deny Erindi a permit to translocate the buffalo, this was done in terms of provisions of the Animal Health Act.

He also pointed out that buffalo may not be kept in a protected area, in terms of the Act.

The whole of Namibia has been proclaimed a protected area, for the purposes of preventing the introduction and spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

However, Waterberg was excluded from this proclamation.

Buffalo are carriers of FMD, although Waterberg buffalo are classified as disease-free.

Erindi on 16 August 2017 lodged an appeal with the agriculture ministry against Maseke's decision.

The ministry then appointed a five-member appeal board in November 2017, which decided to uphold the appeal.

The board further referred the matter back to Maseke for reconsideration.

According to Maseke the appeal board found that he did not consider all Erindi's motivations and did not give them a fair hearing.

Maseke said although he requested to be informed when the appeal hearing would take place, he was never notified.

“It is common cause that no hearing was ever held by the ministry or the appeal board,” he said in court papers.

According to Maseke, he was not given an opportunity to respond to the appeal document.

“I was not given the opportunity to respond in written form. I was not given the opportunity to respond via voice and I was not given the opportunity to place my position (on record), even by leading evidence.”

The request by Erindi stems from an advertisement by the environment ministry in which it said it would sell Waterberg buffalo to interested parties at home and abroad.

However, one of the conditions was that they should have the necessary approval from the relevant veterinary authority.

The environment ministry said the sale was necessary to reduce the population and grazing pressure. The number of buffalo were to be reduced from about 1 000 to about 400.

Buffalo were regularly escaping from the park, and farms and surrounding areas needed to be quarantined, to ensure there was no possibility of an outbreak of FMD.

Erindi argued in its application it has no cloven-hooved livestock and that the 65 000-hectare game reserve has a fully-electrified game fence.

Erindi also pointed out that the Waterberg buffalo are guaranteed as disease-free and that Erindi is also disease-free.

“Furthermore, the infrastructure at Erindi is better and more suited than that of Waterberg. The risk of buffalo escaping from Waterberg is high and happens regularly. The risk of buffalo escaping from Erindi is almost, if not, none.”

However, Maseke maintained that Erindi is located in a commercial farming area and south of the Red Line, and that buffalo can only be moved from one excluded area to another, or outside Namibia. Therefore, a permit could not be issued to Erindi for the translocation of the buffalo, and if this was done, it could put the entire livestock industry at risk. The court this week ordered that the decision by the appeal board in 2017 and the agriculture ministry should be set aside and that the matter be remitted back to them.

Furthermore, a new appeal hearing must conducted in the form of a public hearing.

The court said at this hearing the parties must accept that Maseke has the power, although he refused to exercise it, to issue a permit for the movement of buffalo from Waterberg into the protected area of Erindi.

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