Omatjete elephants will stay

11 October 2017 | Environment

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has said the situation in Omatjete in the Erongo Region where elephants have caused severe destruction, needs immediate attention but, the problem cannot be solved by destroying the elephants.

About two months ago, the community wrote a petition to the ministry demanding the total removal of elephants in the area. This year, the Omatjete community lost a community member and houses, boreholes, gardens and fences were destroyed by elephants.

“Why should the elephants in the Omatjete area be totally removed and not in other areas where there is also conflict? If all Namibians said that they did not want elephants in the area where would that leave us? There needs to be a balance,” said the permanent secretary of the ministry, Dr Malan Lindeque.

He said the ministry can ask the NDF to completely wipe out the elephants in the area and it will probably be completed within one day but, it is more important to diagnose the nature and history of the conflict.

According to him, the elephants probably moved into the area because of the drought, adding that there were no elephants in that area in the past.

He referred to the Kamanjab area where conflict with elephants has also been experienced recently. According to Lindeque, about 50 farms in that area have 200 elephants roaming between the farms causing problems, and the pressure has also been mounting for the removal of the elephants.

“We cannot remove the problem by destroying an asset.”

Lindeque said the problem should rather be mitigated, which can include collaring the elephants or establishing boreholes to attract them away from the community.

“We should rather pursue these initiatives than the total removal of elephants.”

He pointed out that Namibia has an intensive anti-poaching campaign which is ongoing and last year more than 100 elephants were poached in the northern part of the country.

“Now, how do we explain that we want to go to a certain area and kill 20 to 30 elephants?”

However, he added that the problem needs immediate attention. “We need to act fast and make a decision on the appropriate action.”

The ministry was responding to questions from the National Council Standing Committee on Habitat last week on the situation at Omatjete. The committee said the ministry should respond to the petition of the community.

ELLANIE SMIT

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