Jumbos invade Onesi houses (Namibia)


Paulus Kiiyala Shiku, New Era

Date Published

See link for photo. 

A herd of elephants with babies invaded and continued to damage houses and fences at Oshikondailongo village in the Onesi constituency. 

Oshikondailongo is located at the edge of the Uukolonkadhi community forest, 17 kilometres west of the Onesi settlement in the Omusati region. 

The jumbos gave villagers a rude awakening for the first time last Friday, feeding on their melons that were collected from the fields and stored inside the houses. Their mahangu is now at the threshing area, and is also at risk as the elephants might start feeding on it after their favourite melons are finished. 

The damage continued until yesterday, and is expected to last until the pachyderms are driven away. 

The environment ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said a team would attend to the incident. “It is a given that the ministry will make sure the elephants are kept far from the fields. However, we need to realise that this is the time when elephants are moving in search of water as it is a dry season.” 

Muyunda said since farmers know that the elephants are in the area, they have to be cautious. 

The councillor of the Onesi constituency Festus Petrus told New Era yesterday that the constituents called him on Thursday to inform him about the situation. 

He rushed to the area to inspect and inform the officials of the ministry of environment about the damages caused by the elephants, and also requested them to send game rangers to drive them away. “The officials assured me that they will send the rangers as soon as possible to keep the elephants away from the houses and minimise losses,” said Petrus. 

He observed that these are dangerous animals which can kill humans, especially when provoked, and villagers should stay alert and safe when they are around. “I don’t want to think of a situation where someone is killed by elephants there, so people must stay away and exercise caution specifically at night because the elephants visit in the night.” 

The councillor said this is the season when farmers drink Oshitanga and some get intoxicated, which is dangerous when elephants are in the area. 

Oshitanga is a traditional brew made from boiled watermelon juice to which mahangu flour is added, and it is left to ferment overnight before it is ready to drink. It is popular with Aakolonkadhi people every harvest season when the watermelons are ripe. 

“They must stay sober, and avoid walking drunk in the night because they might meet elephants and get hurt or killed,” Petrus warned. 

Ten people were killed through crocodile, hippo and elephant attacks in 2021, Namibia’s Environment and Tourism minister Pohamba said in April 2022. 

As the population grows, most traditional authorities have expanded land boundaries deep in the forests to accommodate people who need land to cultivate and build houses. 

As such, people have encroached on the elephants’ space, causing human-wildlife conflict, as they now compete for water and grazing. 

“This is an area where elephants used to live before the fields, so they will from time to time return to their old grazing grounds in search of water. It is even worse now that they tasted watermelons. We should expect them every harvest season,” the councillor said. 

Julius Johannes, one of the affected farmers whose house was destroyed, told this publication yesterday that the jumbos finished all his melons. 

They visited his house on three consecutive days. He said fortunately, there was nobody in the house when the elephants pushed it down to get access to the melons. “We were not home Friday night. I cannot imagine what could have happened if we were inside.’’ 

The farmer pleaded that the wild animals be driven away from the area before they completely wipe out their harvest and leave them to starve.

“They must come and chase their things away. It is all that I ask. They keep coming back and cause more damage, and we cannot do anything.” 

Johannes’ neighbour, Shikongo Aludhilu, said he called the ministry of environment to compensate or assist him to repair his fence and gate, but they failed. 

“We need to get the ministry to cover for the losses we experienced from elephants,” Aludhilu told New Era.