Govt worried about overcrowding at Etosha (Namibia)


Shelleygan Petersen, The Namibian

Date Published

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The government has raised red flags on the increase of wildlife causing an overcrowded Etosha National Park. This was revealed by minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta during the launch of Namibia’s environment law and policy guidelines yesterday.

Shifeta said the country is currently faced with the overcrowding of wildlife, with the elephant population hitting about 24,000 and lions standing at 400. “This is too much. All the facilities are full – even the private facilities are full. Etosha is over its capacity,” he said.

Human-wildlife conflict has also increased in the last few years, with 9,043 incidents reported in 2020. The ministry has spent N$15,1 million on human-wildlife conflict cases over the past three years. In the last year alone, over 1,000 livestock incidents were reported, with six human lives lost, Shifeta said.

“The elephants have become too many, and this causes human-wildlife conflict,” he said.

Wild animals also damage fences, buildings, water tanks, pipes and reservoirs, with elephants and baboons causing most of this damage, he said.

Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said the ministry has paid out N$7,8 million to different conservancies since 2019 to help them recover from the losses due to human-wildlife conflict. The ministry has also paid out N$2,4 million for livestock losses, and N$2,2 million for crop damage caused by wild animals.

The ministry has also paid N$490,000 for human injuries and N$2 million for the loss of lives caused by wild animals.

Muyunda said since 2019, the ministry has received 673 complaints of livestock damage, and 853 of crop damage caused by wildlife. “From 2019 to date, we have recorded 39 cases of people injured, and 20 of people killed by wild animals,” he said. Two people have been killed since January this year.

Last year, the minister said they received reports of elephants causing damage to crops, water infrastructure and property in the Kunene, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa, Kavango West, Kavango East, and Erongo regions, and many parts of the Zambezi region.

Shifeta said buffaloes are also reported to be destroying crops in the Zambezi region, mainly in areas around Lake Liambezi, the eastern floodplains, as well as areas around the Nkasa Rupara, Mudumu and Bwabwata national parks.

In the Kunene and Omusati regions, lions continue to attack livestock. The situation is worsened by the current drought, mainly in the Kunene region. Wild dogs have been reported in the Salambala Conservancy of the Zambezi region to be causing conflict in that area.

Similar conflicts involving wild dogs have been reported in the Kavango East and Otjozondjupa regions.

Shifeta said current solutions are effective, but called for other ways to mitigate the devastating impact on communities. “Hunting is hunting. It doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.

Between 2012/13 and 2015/16, trophy hunting raised more than N$39 million for the Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) – 68% of a total of N$57 million raised. Over the same period, the GPTF allocated N$70 million to conservation projects. These projects included anti-poaching and wildlife protection, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, and water-supply infrastructure.

Currently, the ministry is driving elephants to areas where they will not cause problems, Shifeta said. In some instances, helicopters are being used for these purposes.

Other efforts include capture and relocation, the sale of elephants, monitoring their movements, alternative water points a distance from homesteads or villages, encouraging the use of chili pepper, fences and chili ‘bombs’, and guarding crop fields. Shifeta said the solutions are costly and do not seem to work in the long run.

The minister said they are currently spending about N$30,000 per elephant per month. “This is costly for the government,” he said.