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The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has supplied 22 elephants to a private buyer, who in turn exported then to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A further 15 elephants that were also sold through a private auction, however, remain in Namibia and have already been supplied to the Naankuse Foundation.
In a statement released on Sunday, the ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said 22 elephants captured from the Kamanjab commercial farming area in the Kunene region were supplied to GH Odendaal, the successful bidder, and were exported to the UAE.
“We want to clarify that all the auctioned elephants were sold to Namibian bidders; the export of the elephants out of Namibia was not the ministry’s decision,” he said.
Muyunda said the successful bidders have ownership of the elephants, and are within their rights to utilise them.
“With the export of the 22 elephants, no international or domestic laws were violated by either the importing state or exporting state,” Muyunda said.
He added that the ministry has a huge responsibility, amid the pressure that comes with managing human-wildlife conflict in a way that balances the rights of people and the need for conservation.
“Instead of condemning us, animal rights groups, which are in any case based in countries without wild animals, must be grateful to countries like Namibia that take practical decisions to enhance conservation.
“From 2019 to 2021, the country recorded a total of 960 cases of crop damage, of which 923 were caused by elephants.
“The majority of people in communal areas depend on small crop farming for their survival, where any disruption affects them severely.
“Unfortunately, we also lost four people within the same period as a result of elephants, and the ministry has paid N$13.9 million to offset losses to those affected,” Muyunda said.
He added that the primary objective of the auction was to reduce elephant numbers in affected areas to give relief to communities.
“The funds generated … will be invested in conserving our wildlife, particularly in the management of human-wildlife conflict, and will not necessarily to be pocketed by individuals, as insinuated by animal rights groups.
“The Game Product Trust Fund accounts where the proceeds are deposited are audited against financial mismanagement,” he said.