Namibian government responds to elephant hunting debate

EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism

Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism has reacted to articles and letters titled “do not allow trading the lives of rare Desert Elephants for political votes in Namibia“.

In this circulating articles and letters, it is alleged that the Namibian Government has apparently secretly proceeded with the sale of hunting permits for elephants in the Kunene Region for the ruling SWAPO Party to get political support from the communities in the region. It has further alleged that elephants in the Kunene Region occur in low numbers, the population is declining and the sex ratio is skew with only 18 bulls of which 6 of them are to be sold for non-trophy hunting.

I would like to bring to the attention of the general public and the international community that elephants occur across the entire north of Namibia with two main subpopulations in the north-east and north-west parts of the country. In 2005 the total population was estimated at bout 16 000 animals, while current figures after ten years is over 20 000 elephants.

The north-west population is about 4 000 animals and includes the elephants in the Etosha National park. Elephants are being seen as far south as the Ugab River and in all of the river catchments which flow westwards to the Atlantic Ocean in the north. The north-eastern population is over 16 000 animals. The recent increases are well in excess of normal growth rates. 391 elephants were recently counted in the Kunene Region at a coverage of about 55% with a biological sound sex ratio.

I further would like to inform the public and the entire community that elephants are able to survive in a very wide range of habitats across the extremes of rainfall in Africa. The elephants in the Kunene region are being referred to as desert elephants because of the adaptation to living in desert conditions and for tourism attractions. They are the same species of elephants which occur elsewhere in the country and are scientifically known as ‘Loxodonta africana‘.

Strictly speaking there is no such thing called “Desert Elephants”. All out elephants are African elephants (Loxodonta africanus) and not Desert Elephants. If there was a concern of a skew in the sex ratio as alleged, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism could have made efforts to translocate some bulls from the north-eastern part of the country where they are abundant in numbers to the Kunene Region because they are the same species, but this is not the case. Except for the most extreme desert ares, all of Namibia is suitable habitat for elephants.

Elephants are classified as Specially Protected Game under Namibian law. The original justification for such a listing may well have disappeared as elephants are no longer endangered. Elephants are no longer rare in Namibia, but only potentially valuable.

The current conservation status of elephants in Namibia is more than satisfactory, their numbers already exceed what many would consider desirable for the available habitats and they have been identified as a possible threat to other rare and valuable species which Namibia is trying to conserve. The are no limiting factors preventing an increase in the elephant numbers in Namibia.

Although about 17% of land surface of Namibia has been placed in proclaimed protected areas, that only covers 50% of the national elephant range as well as other wildlife species. An increasing proportion of wildlife, including elephant range, is in communal areas. As a result in 1996, the government of the republic of Namibia through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism amended legislation, the Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996 (Act 5 of 1996) to allow of the formation of Communal Area Conservancies that gave consumptive and non-consumptive utilisation rights of wildlife to rural communities.

In line withe Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996 (5 of 1996), the Elephant Management Plan, National Policy on Community Based Natural Resource Management, two elephants are included on the game utilisation quota of 2014 for the conservancies in the Khorixas district in the Kunene Region, and Omatjete area of the Erongo Region. The two elephants are shared by the conservancies. Torra and Doro !Nawas Conservancies share another one elephant, Otjimboyo, Tsiseb, Sorri-Sorris and Ohungu Conservancies share another one elephant. These two elephants are for own use and not for trophy purposes and therefore the conservancies can utilise elephant cows as well and are not limited to hunting bulls only. The allocation is also to be utilised for the period of three years, meaning only two elephants will be hunted for that purpose in these conservancies for three years.

The quotas include problem causing animals and the ministry will only under exceptional conditions consider granting approval that any additional problem causing animal be destroyed.

Communal area conservancies manage about 19% of communal land in Namibia and thus over 240 000 people live within these conservancies. To date, there are 79 registered conservancies that generate over N$ 40 million from consumptive utilisation of wildlife including trophy hunting of elephants, per year.

It should also be noted that Human Wildlife Conflict is also escalating, and in 2013, the number of problem causing animals incidents reported to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism was over 5 000. In some unfortunate incidents, human lives are being lost dues to elephant attacks.

Addressing human-wildlife conflict requires striking a balance between conservation priorities and the needs of people living with wildlife. Elephant-human conflicts is not new to the Kunene Region

It is of the opinion of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism that the aggressiveness of the elephants and their new migration patterns inland as an indication of disturbance in the Uchab River, probably caused more by irresponsible ecotourism and vehicles than anything else.

Namibia is committed to the sustainable use of wildlife resources, as is indeed provided for in our national constitution. Sustainable use of wildlife resources is the result of good conservation and good wildlife management, and it is our collective interest to ensure that we use this resource sustainably.

By now it has become common knowledge that tourism in general and trophy hunting in particular has grown to be one of the most important industries in Namibia in terms if its strong contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, employment creation and the well-being and social upliftment of out rural people.

Namibia’s elephant population and the Kunene population in particular, is a healthy and growing population. It is growing at about 3.3% per year. The current levels of consumptive off-take are extremely conservative. They are well below sustainable off-take levels, and the population continues to grow and expand.

There are more elephant in Namibia today than at any time in the past 100 years. One of the reasons for their increase in numbers is that they have a value, communities have rights to manage and use the wildlife, and are starting to earn significant income from wildlife and this is creating the incentives for them to look after and protect wildlife, including elephants, all of which leads to a positive conservation result. Trophy hunting and sustainable use of wildlife is a result of good conservation.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is also aware of specific Non Governmental Organisations and individuals who are working against the wildlife conservation activities of the Government and sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources by rural communities through the Conservancy Programme.  This has negative implications to out Community Based Natural Resource Management which has now been widely regarded as an innovative and successful people-oriented approach to conservation. We have become recognised as a leader in this field. We have restored the link between conservation and rural development by enabling communal areas farmers to derive a direct income from the sustainable use of wildlife and tourism activities.

These specific NGOs and individuals have no research permits on elephants in the Kunene Region or elsewhere in the country. Neither do they have operating agreements to Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Republic of Namibia  through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on their activities. Any work being done on the elephant status in the Kunene Region by these NGOs and individuals is illegal and cannot be relied on. I urge them to refrain from this irresponsible behaviour before an action is taken.

The Namibian public and the international community is called upon to ignore these inaccurate false reports and assumptions on our elephants and sustainable utilisation practices.

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  • Morkel Erasmus

    It’s good to have both sides of the story – but I’m not buying all of this.
    Of the 4000 elephants touted to live in the northwest, how many are in
    Etosha and how many in the Damaraland/Kunene region? I would venture
    that not more than 300 at most are living in the desert. It’s also a
    straw man argument to say you can just translocate an elephant – yes the
    Desert Elephants are not GENETICALLY different, but are they telling us
    that you can just dart an elephant in the lush green Kavango/Caprivi
    region and move it to the Ugab or Hoanib riverbed, wake it up and send
    it on its merry way to suddenly live in a desert environment?

    Also – this is the same MET and government who recently separated quite a number of
    rhino and elephant babies from their mothers in the wild and shipped
    them over to Cuba to be put in a dilapidated run-down ZOO (along with a
    host of other animals like lions)!!! Political interest is served FIRST,
    as is the case in my own country (South Africa) too.

    • Gerard Tromp

      Agreed Morkel. Herd animals and elephants in particular, due to their longevity, also have “social inheritance”, i.e., memories from the elder animals that help them negotiate their environment. This social inheritance is very important for animals in challenging environments, or under stress conditions such as drought.

  • Diane Anderson

    Well said Morkel, just don’t buy the above

    • Dorelle Downes

      Hear hear!!

  • Paul Oxton

    All this propaganda is just smoke and mirrors to justify the trophy hunting scourge that is infecting Africa by foreign tourists that like to kill innocent animals for fun. Namibia hides behind a law that allows an animal to be declared a “problem animal” then they can issue a permit to trophy hunting outfits overseas to sell for a ridiculous amount of money that very little actually reaches the local communities or conservation. The hunting companies have publicly advertised that they have already sold a permit to kill a Namibian Desert Elephant and are taking bookings for 2015 to kill more. You only have to Google it to see. The Western Black Rhino also had no genetic difference from the animals in the South either, and are now extinct. The Desert Elephant may be the same genetically, but are definitely unique and rare. They should be conserved, not killed for fun…

    • Nigel Miller

      I agree. It’s also not the first time Namibia has done this (they hunted six in 2008).

    • Complete propaganda and shameless shill writing for selling ivory.

  • Nigel52

    I agree with all below. The Gov throws out the big numbers – using the usual hunter arguments ‘ there are too many ” ” they have to be utilised ” — so Gov provide the evidence of the the big numbers – pictures of the enormous herds — as no NGO that is on the ground buys any of it

  • Karina1

    Your country would benefit farmore from tourism with cameras to film these magnificent animals. Your stance on the cape seal slaughter has done no favours for Namibia`s
    conservation record. As for saying, all these elephants are the same, do you
    think people are going to buy this? No way. Millions would love to share a
    country with such incredible wildlife yet you and your government want to
    destroy it. If you allow these elephants to be hunted then your tourism will be
    seriously affected

  • Louise Dickinson

    Please watch the Youtube link : ‘ Elephants in the Namibian desert – Wild Africa – BBC ‘; this is independent evidence stating that there are ‘100 or so Desert Dwelling Elephants; being supported by the Desert ” The Namibia Ministry has just announced there are 20,000 backed by WWF . Can the BBC Wildlife Award winning , credible , educationalist Documentary makers be wrong ? The Desert Dwelling Elephants are NOT large enough in their population to cull . They should NOT be Trophy Hunted ever. There are only 18 Bulls and 6 are going to be shot in two weeks time, and more Trophy Hunting permits are beginning sold now , for 2015 and the world is trying to stop the Namibia Government from making a mistake and sending the animals into extinction , whilst the world is watching . THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE HUNTING, THIS IS BREAKING THE RULES OF THE INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT SET DOWN BY CITIES, BACKED BY 180 COUNTRIES !! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0v5MIdyxZc

  • Communal Area Conservancies should have the right to benefit from sustainable non-consumptive and consumptive use of animals. It is arrogant and colonial for outsiders to dictate to these communities how the wildlife should be managed. If you want to support the communities and a specific use of the animals, then make a contribution or book a photo safari. Otherwise, let the communities work within the parameters and derive income for the families, and please refrain from foisting your own outsider political agendas upon them.

    • Mino

      Then admit it and stop making up shit that fools no one. Just say…we don’t give a damn about these elephants and if we want to kill them all, it is our business. Or hire better liars, if you want to convince the public.

      • Otto Savage

        Mino, I would guess that you live a comfortable life, you know where your next meal is coming from, and that you care more about your own self-righteousness than the lives and livelihoods of these native peoples. Shame on you for caring so little about others. No one is going to “kill them all”, because this is their lifeblood and they want to sustain it. I would rather sit down for a meager meal with any of those people, than a gourmet feast with your bloated ego and self-serving proselytizing. Get yourself a life and leave them alone. Your “facts” are so out of touch with reality, and your position is all Disneyfied emotion. God help this world if you should ever get into a position of authority.

        • Mino

          Why don’t you reply to what I actually said and not what you wish to over-dramatize. I said that their assertions that they could/would airdrop a bull from Caprivi and it could take the place of one who was born to that population was kak. Do you believe them? If so, we have nothing to discuss. Their outraged threats at the finish remind me of your nonsense.

        • President Camacho

          You sound a little upset there otto, my guess is you live just as comfortable of a life. What have you done, to help these people you speak of? Do you really believe that feeding them an elephant here and there really makes a different? It doesn’t it’s like some demented welfare system to keep them subsist on handouts, as opposed to coming up with real solutions to the animal/people problem. Maybe it’s easy to convince yourself of this, but there are people like me out there creating farmer and animal husbandry programs for the impoverished to create a better living capacity for those ultra-poor you speak of, and yes I have had many humble meals with the types before you ask…

  • UATH

    There is a quote from Shakespeare and it wasn’t Romeo and Juliette. Hamlet?
    THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS? Definitely Hamlet.

  • Kaz Cobb

    Not buying any of this rubbish. Does not matter what they are called or where they live. Elephants should NOT be sold for trophy hunting. And with ALL populations in decline they should be protected and not sold to line someone’s pocket with $$$. This isn’t about the name, the elephants it all about making people rich and at a cost of making Elephants extinct. There is enough to contend with with the Ivory trade and wildlife trafficking. We all now that there is corruption in the Namibian Government and writing rubbish like this just confirms it.

  • Ken Watkins

    The wildlife conservation method known as “sustainable management” has worked remarkably well in Namibia, where wild life numbers of all animals has increased dramatically over the past 20 years (source Panthera).
    I wonder how many of the contributors have ever been to Namibia let alone visited the desert dwelling Elephants, I have and there are still plenty to be found if you know where to look!
    The people of Northern Namibia live in abject poverty and their crops are often destroyed by Elephants, and the sustainable management policy has worked wonders in improving their lifestyle. Funds raised from this selective hunting have been used to protect wells, build schools and health centres.
    There are plenty of Elephants but there are also far to many humans.
    What do you suggest?
    PS One trip to Etosha does not an expert make!

    • BotswanaBuff

      Precisely, Ken. few, probably none of the contributors above have ever had to deal with managing wildlife and dealing with human/wildlife interaction. All throughout Africa the human population is encroaching rabidly on all available land. Regardless of whether or not an insignificant of elephants are shot by people who seem to get some sort of strange pleasure from it, control of animal populations is inevitable as long as the human tide of population continues to rise.

  • Kei

    I agree with the Namibian government, all the facts are legitimate and can be found in the scientific literature. Furthermore, the elephant debate extends well beyond simple solutions. The elephant is a roaming animal whose densities are ultimately affected by water as a resource, hence the low numbers in the desert. I really believe the Nam government is doing a good job to the best of their abilities and in line with what conservation managers are bred to do.

  • Michael McSweeney

    In my opinion, some Government officials are receiving nice payments to allow the hunting of the elephants to continue!!!

  • Ron PARNELL

    Two words difficult to match: [1] ‘politicians’ – [2] ”trust’. The world over!

  • michaelstumpf

    I have read the entire article. Basically it’s still about money, just like poaching for ivory. Maybe it’s not funding terrorism but for me, that’s not good enough. For the elephants that’s not good enough, and although I am not a complete authority on all their claims, I can’t say that I believe them on several counts. For one, there are better ways of coping with human elephant conflict than killing the elephants. Again, it’s about money. Never mind that there is a vast elephant friendly economic frontier that Namibia is wasting, because it’s easier to just pull a trigger and hold out your hand for money. On to the next item on the agenda? One final word. Elephants in Africa are endangered. This is why people march all over the world for their cause. Don’t insult my intelligence, by saying that they are plentiful and must be killed to control population. It’s about money. Let’s talk about that.

  • liteacher

    It’s all about the revenue and preserving the lucrative business of trophy hunting . . . “Elephants are classified as Specially Protected Game under Namibian Law”.

    Sadly, the Namibian authorities see the elephant herds as expedient commodities but not as wildlife that needs their protection.

  • Complete BS. This is a completely false article.

  • Ernest Hemingway

    I and my wife just can’t wait to get over there to shoot a couple bulls. Hopefully, the teeth will come in at over 100 pound a side. See you all in April.

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