Namibia culls ten 'dangerous' elephants to protect farmers, crops

25May 2020
The Guardian
Namibia culls ten 'dangerous' elephants to protect farmers, crops

​​​​​​​WILDLIFE authorities in Namibia culled ten elephants over the past month after they moved into farming areas and destroyed crops during harvest season, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Foreign tourists in safari riverboats observe elephants along the Chobe river bank near Botswana's northern border where Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia meet.

The animals were shot after they endangered human lives in the north of the country and were marked as dangerous, said Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism spokesman Romeo Muyunda.

He said the decision was necessary to protect farmers and their crops. The carcasses have been given as compensation to community members whose harvests have been damaged.

“Normally during this season people are terrorised by elephants. We had no choice but to be proactive,” Muyunda said, adding however that problematic elephants can only be put down if no other solution can be found.

Like a number of other African nations, Namibia has grappled with balancing protection for species like elephants with managing the danger they pose when they encroach on areas of human habitation.

The country has enjoyed international support for a conservation drive that has seen its elephant population grow from just over 7,500 in 1995 to 24,000 last year, according to government figures.

The search for effective measures to deal with human-elephant conflict is one of the most significant challenges for elephant management. The AfESG meets this challenge through the work of its Human Elephant Conflict Working Group.

The conservation of the African elephant, a "flagship" species of global significance, provides tremendous opportunities for simultaneously conserving biodiversity and increasing benefits to local communities. The full range of such benefits is extensive and includes improved access to natural capital; improved livelihood opportunities; improvements to social capital; greater food security and reduced vulnerability to ecosystem degradation. Owing to their role as "keystone" and "umbrella" species that help maintain biodiversity of the ecosystems they inhabit, the contribution of elephants to achieving overarching global biodiversity conservation objectives can be significant. The cultural and aesthetic values of elephants are also important, not only to African societies, but to the world at large.

However, as African elephant range becomes more and more fragmented and as elephants get confined into smaller pockets of suitable habitat, humans and elephants are increasingly coming into contact and in conflict with each other.

Elephants impact negatively on local communities in many ways e.g. by raiding crops, killing livestock, destroying water supplies, demolishing grain stores and houses, injuring and even killing people. The costs of such conflict can be significant.

In most African nations today, the real and perceived costs of human-elephant conflict (HEC) greatly outweigh the potential benefits and, subsequently, elephants are increasingly being excluded from many parts of their former range. Once the elephants are gone, however, the local communities will have lost a valuable asset, while at the same time contributing to the loss of biodiversity and overall degradation of the ecosystems on which they depend for their livelihoods.