Nine killed in animal attacks

Human encroachment on formerly wild areas is leading to more frequent cases of conflict with wildlife.

17 February 2017 | Environment

It is not even two months into the year and already six people have been killed by wild animals. The number is staggeringly high as in 2016 a total of nine were killed in conflict with animals in Namibia.

Four of those killed this year were in hippo attacks while the other two people were killed by crocodiles.

Last year, four people were injured in human-wildlife conflict incidents including two staff members of the environment ministry.

As for livestock, 545 cattle, 79 sheep, 291 goats and 15 donkeys were taken by wild animals in 2016 while this year 46 cattle and nine goats have been killed so far.

With regard to crops, there were 71 incidents of damage reported in 2016 and 94 hectares were destroyed by wild animals. This year 21 incidents were reported and 57 hectares have been destroyed.

These figures were released by environment minister Pohamba Shifeta at the announcement of a conference on human-wildlife conflict management.

The conference will be held on 1 and 2 March at the Safari Hotel in Windhoek, while World Wildlife Day will be celebrated on 3 March.

Shifeta said people were risking their lives crossing and swimming in rivers because they believe that crocodiles will not attack them unless they are bewitched.

He said this ignorance was why so many people were being killed by hippos and crocodiles.

The minister said there are designated areas where people can cross rivers.

“But because they do not want to get a permit they cross the river at night even with babies that become victims.”

Shifeta said human-wildlife conflict in Namibia had become more frequent and severe in recent decades as a result of population growth, unplanned agricultural activities and the expansion of agricultural and industrial activities, which have led to increased human encroachment on previously wild and uninhabited areas.

According to Shifeta the ministry recognises that living with wildlife often carries a cost, with increased wildlife populations and expanded ranges into communal and freehold farming areas resulting in more frequent conflicts between people and wild animals, particularly elephants and predators.

He said that resulted in livestock and crop losses, damage to water installations and in some instances loss of human lives. The impact of livestock losses and crop damage on rural farmers is compounded by the effects of unemployment, lack of cash and the impact of HIV/Aids.

According to him these conflicts have always existed where people and wildlife live together and will continue to do so in the future. “This means that it will not be possible to eradicate all conflicts but that conflict has to be managed in the most effective and efficient way possible.”

He said it was also evident that the widespread drought in Namibia was aggravating the situation.

Shifeta added that many wild animals are destroyed in retaliation of human-wildlife conflict even when the identification of the real culprit is not possible especially with predators. “This may eliminate the species and affect the ecosystem and home ranges.”

The conference will discuss measures and strategies to be put in place in order to address the issue of wildlife conflict and finalise the revised national policy on human-wildlife conflict management.





ELLANIE SMIT

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