Namibia Elephants Under No Threat

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    Oct 1, 2007
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    Namibia Elephants Under No Threat

    The Ministry of Environment and Tourism says Namibia has more elephants now than at any other time in the last 100 years.

    Growing at a rate of 3.3 percent per year, the country's elephant population is more than 20000, up from 16000 in 2004.

    Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said on Monday the entire population especially that of the Kunene Region was healthy and growing, with the levels of consumptive off takes being very conservative and being below the sustainable off takes.

    Nandi-Ndaitwah was reacting to an article that appeared in a local English daily recently about three elephants that were allocated for trophy hunting.

    The article said there were fears that the action could reduce the number of already endangered rare desert bulls.

    She said the north-west including Etosha National Park has 4000, while the north-east has a population of more than 16000, with the increase attributable to immigration from northern Botswana and north-west Zimbabwe.

    Nandi-Ndaitwah said the conservation status of elephants in Namibia was more than satisfactory because their numbers exceed what is considered desirable on the available habitats.

    She said although elephants are classified as specially protected game under Namibian law, they have also been identified as a possible threat to other rare and valuable species, which Namibia is trying to conserve.

    Since the country enacted legislation to allow the formation of communal area conservancies, Kunene alone has 18 registered conservancies with trophy hunting quotas.

    The three elephants are part of game utilisation quotas for three conservancies in the Khorixas district, namely Torra and â‰Khoadi //Hôas, Huab and Doro !Nawas and Sorris Sorris and Otjimboyo conservancies.

    The ministry decided to award the three elephants for trophy hunting based on the approved elephant management plan, existing policies and legislation and the game census conducted in June last year, she said.

    The quotas include problem animals involved in human- wildlife conflict, which has increased over the years. In 2006 alone, 5637 incidents of human-wildlife conflict were reported to the ministry, while elephants killed seven people last year.

    Director of Parks and Wildlife Management, Ben Beytell, said there are 360 elephants in the areas where the three were allocated for trophy hunting and the three were seen as elephants that need to be removed for the sake of peace in the area. The elephant allocated for Torra and â‰Khoadi //Hôas was already shot, with the community benefiting N$115000.

    According to Namibia Nature Foundation Executive Director, Dr Chris Brown, the quotas pose no threat to the elephant population in the Kunene Region.

    But he said: "Countering this quota does pose a threat to Community Based Natural Resource Management, CBNRM, to rural farmers being tolerant of elephants and other wildlife on their land and thus to long-term conservation in Namibia."

    Brown said the people living with the elephants in Kunene were local farmers who have the right to decide which wild animals they are prepared to tolerate and which they are not.

    "One cannot force farmers to co-exist with wild animals if they choose not to. The views of urban people and tour operators become irrelevant. Farmers will only be prepared to live with wildlife if their value exceeds their costs," he said.

    In the interest of conservation, Brown said, farmers should get maximum sustainable returns from wildlife and experience minimal costs.

    Brown added that a package of wildlife use that includes tourism, trophy hunting, game meat production, own use, live capture and sale that optimises sustainable use and economic returns was essential to make wildlife management an economically viable and competitive form of land use.

    Failure to achieve this will make farmers to not tolerate wildlife on their land, particularly species that come at a high cost, such as elephants, he said.

    While the cause of loss of wildlife over the past century was from competing land uses as farming displaced wildlife, farmers are starting to earn more money from wildlife and tourism, which has reversed and wildlife is recolonising vast areas where it was locally extinct, said Brown.

    Source: New Era Namibia

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