Drought worsens human−wildlife conflict

FOUR people have so far been killed by animals this year in growing incidents of conflict between humans and wildlife, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said while expressing concern during a press conference in Windhoek last Thursday.

He said animals are here to stay, and there is therefore a need to create awareness among communities on how to live in harmony with them. 
The director of parks and wildlife in the ministry Colgar Sikopo said there have been 109 recorded cases of livestock killed; an average of 218 hectares of crops destroyed; and four people killed in the process during this period.

He said last year, 16 people were killed in conflict between humans and wildlife, while one child was injured. 554 cases of livestock killed had also been recorded, with 222 hectares of crops damaged across the country then. 

Meanwhile, Shifeta said it is evident that the widespread drought in Namibia has aggravated the situation, as people and wildlife in several places compete for the same resources. “People, particularly in the Kunene region, have simply invaded land set aside for wildlife by conservancies, with consequent severe conflicts,” he added.

The minister said there are, however, ways to mitigate such conflicts, and the ministry is engaged, within its resource limits, in this matter.

Shifeta furthermore acknowledged that living with wildlife often carries a cost as there is frequent conflict between people and particularly elephants and predators in many areas.
He said it will not be possible to eradicate all conflict, but this can be managed.

The ministry is also trying to educate communities on what to do and not to do when confronted by wild animals. The minister claimed that some people provoke animals by trying to chase them away with the sound of drums or burning tyres. This, he said, confuses the animals, and at times they become violent to protect themselves.

“You can only kill an animal if your life is under immediate threat. If we do not take care of wildlife, we are neglecting the economy,” Shifeta warned. 

There is currently no compensation policy on property destroyed by animals, although the ministry is working on one. The ministry only gives small smounts as compsensation for losses suffered by individuals, which most of the time is not much. 
For now, the ministry’s officials are in various areas to monitor the movements of elephants and to assist farmers in preventing damages to crops and property. 

– tuyeimo@namibian.com.na