A 35-year old man was trampled to death by an elephant near the Otjikakaneno and Omatjete villages in Erongo on Tuesday.
According to the chairperson of the Zeraeua Traditional Authority, Fabianus Uaseuapuani, the victim and a friend were having dinner at the friend’s home before the incident happened. After the visit, the friend walked the victim halfway back to where he lived at around 22h00.
This was when they crossed paths with an elephant.
“The elephant immediately chased them into the bush. They tried to hide behind a tree, but the elephant discovered them. The friend managed to escape, but the elephant trampled the victim, standing on his head,” Uaseuapuani explained.
The victim’s name was given to this newspaper, but Uaseuapuani requested that it be held back because the next of kin had not yet been notified of his death by yesterday.
“Ten years ago, another man was killed here by a raging elephant. Last month, the animals destroyed houses. We are being terrorised,” he said, adding that five elephants were seen yesterday after the tracks of the killer elephant were followed.
He said the animals were a “serious threat” to the communities, and complained that pleas for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to intervene were falling on deaf ears.
Erongo governor Cleophas Mutjavikua said villages in that part of Erongo were among the smallest communities in Namibia, which had been devastated by the recent drought.
“There is not enough food and water for the animals. The farmers have to move and squat at places where they can find something for their animals to survive. If you add elephants, which are big animals, to this equation, then you have a serious problem,” he stated. He said boreholes created by MET in the communal areas did not solve the problem as they only attracted elephants closer to the people. The elephants have also figured out that people keep lucerne at the homesteads, so these also get damaged. “We have communicated our concerns to MET for the past three years. The current arrangements are not feasible. We need to find another way because we have a problem,” Mutjavikua stressed. He feared that the conflict between humans and elephants may intensify, especially when someone is killed by an animal. MET’s director of wildlife and parks, Colgar Sikopo, said a team of senior MET officers were dispatched to the scene of the tragedy yesterday to assess the situation.
“It may be an option to eradicate the elephant that did this because it may still show aggression towards people. We will have to see,” he said.
According to him, conflict between humans and animals was a difficult situation as the needs of both had to be considered. The elephants, he said, have always been there, and this area was their natural habitat. They would move around, but this was where they came from.
“Obviously, conflict cannot be completely eradicated, but it can be reduced with some intervention,” he asserted.
He added that the ministry has declared the area a conservancy where communities could benefit from the wildlife, which may include earnings from trophy hunting, for instance. Besides this, two waterholes were also created for the elephants, while walls were built around communal waterholes to keep elephants out.
“The problem with the drought is that communities move near to where the water points for the elephants are, which could aggravate the situation. There are several factors that contribute to conflict between humans and animals, one being the drought,” he stated. Another measure taken was public awareness about the conflict.
“We have intensified public awareness, explaining to communities what the conflict entails, and how to live with it. For instance, they know there are elephants around there, and that they should rather not walk around at night,” he said.
He said a human-wildlife self-reliance scheme exists where the ministry will give N$5 000 to a family to assist them in times of trouble.