Seasonal elephant visits to Otamanzi (Namibia)


Marx Itamalom, The Namibian

Date Published

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It is 15h00 on Tuesday afternoon, and pensioner Hilja Indongo of the Onanyanga village – about 130km north-west of Oshakati – at the Otamanzi constituency and two of her nieces are busy in their mahangu field weeding, as well as collecting some watermelons and pumpkins.

A herd of four elephants – two adults and two calves – was seen on Sunday evening, Indongo tells The Namibian, and so they have to haverst as much as they can before sunset and before it is too late.

“We received a call from someone from the cuca shops, informing us that the herd was spotted heading to our house,” she said, adding that they then heard the elephants moving through the bushes.

Indongo said even the age-old trick of beating metal drums and rattling the corrugated iron sheets on their shacks to scare the elephants off, did not help.

“They broke the fence and entered the field. They did not care about the noise. They ate, and moved at their own time as they wished. We could clearly see them in the moonlight,” she explained.

She added that the herd moved from her field into her neighbour’s part, and then returned around midnight to her field, drank water from a nearby pan, and then left shortly before dawn.


Indongo told The Namibian that this is the fourth year in a row that the tuskers are destroying her crops at exactly the same time of the year, and it was certain they would return the next evening.

“They always behave that way. They come eat, go drink and rest, and return again in the evening,” she noted.

According to Indongo, the elephants returned on Monday for another feast, and spent the whole night in her field and that of her neighbour, Johannes Shiimbi.

This time, she said, one of her dogs that had never seen the elephants and got close to the herd was trampled to death, while the older dogs hid.

Unlike in previous years, Indongo said, this year’s damage to her crops is huge since a quarter of her mahangu field was destroyed over the two nights.

The scene in her field was terrible to witness, with some watermelons and pumpkins split open, while others were half-eaten. Elephant spoors were everywhere.

Here, the spoor is called the ‘green cross’ because it resembles prints made by casual Green Cross shoes.

“These animals do not know how hard we work to grow these crops. How can they just cut open the watermelons and partially eat them, or leave them without eating at all?” she asked despondently.


Otamanzi councillor Johannes Iyambo said the herd scared some schoolpupils who were on their way to the Oshandumbala Primary School.

Iyambo said classes had to be suspended for fear that the herd might pass by and harm the pupils.

Matheus Ambata of Oshandumbala said although the elephants are not normally a threat, something must be done to keep them away.

“A wild animal is just a wild animal. You do not know how it thinks. They might even one day injure or kill people who try to drive them away from their fields,” he stressed.


Indongo said since the elephants started invading her field, she has not received any compensation from the government.

“I want government to do something to stop the elephants from destroying our crops. We are losing a lot. The government does not make any provision. Until when are we going to lose our crops like this?” she asked.

A senior environment ministry ranger, Lahja Shooza, told The Namibian that the elephants destroying crops in Otamanzi are from the Sheya Shuushona conservancy.

“These elephants are not from the Etosha National Park, as people claim. They were born here and belong here. They belong in the forest, where these people have built their houses. They have nowhere else to go,” she explained.

Shooza further said the environment ministry’s staff usually camp in the affected area for a few days to scare the elephants off each time they come, until they leave for the conservancy, which is about 10km away.

Otamanzi councillor Iyambo confirmed to The Namibian that elephants have been destroying crops at the Oshandumbala and Onanyanga villages in the past.

He said none of the affected farmers have been compensated for their losses. He, however, added that the Sheya Shuushona conservancy is under the Ongandjera Traditional Authority’s auspices, and not the government’s.

“If people have to be compensated, it should be by the traditional authority, and not the government,” he said, promising to get more information about the compensation policy.