By Arlana Shikongo, The Namibian
The Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) is set to open an elephant education centre aimed at enabling schools, communities, conservancy game guards, elephant guards and field guides to better understand elephant behaviour.
The education provided at the centre will also be geared towards teaching communities how they can protect themselves when they come into contact with their wild neighbours.
The centre, being built in the Namib Desert, 50 kilometres outside Uis towards Khorixas along the C35 road, is the latest development in the organisation’s ongoing People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing (Peace) Project and will be run by EHRA’s Peace Project team.
In a press statement issued yesterday, the organisation detailed that alongside an information centre, the facility will provide both an indoor and outdoor education space which can cater to more than 50 students.
“For communities living in the northern Erongo and southern Kunene regions, the risk of conflict with free-roaming elephants can be challenging.
“But now, thanks to a new elephant education centre that is due to be completed later this year, people in these regions are set to benefit from a dedicated space where they can learn how to live peacefully side-by-side with elephants while protecting themselves and their livelihoods,” the statement said.
According to Sabine Kuhn, EHRA’s marketing manager, the centre is about one third complete and construction is expected to be completed by December.
The new centre came to fruition through a collaboration with United Kingdom ice cream brand NUII and environment conservation organisation, WildArk. It has been two years in the works.
“The support of NUII and WildArk has also been critical in providing essential funding for the new centre and helping the project stay on track. In addition to the centre, NUII and WildArk will help fund at least 20 solar-powered water pumps to provide free access to water for the community, livestock and free-roaming wildlife, replacing the diesel-fuelled pumps which require payment for fuel to operate,” the statement noted.
EHRA works directly with local communities to provide hands-on conservation support through the construction of protective walls which allow elephants to drink water, but prevent access to the windmills, water storage tanks or pumps that they often damage.
The organisation has helped foster peaceful relationships between free-roaming desert-adapted elephants and people in Namibia since 2003.
EHRA’s Peace project is an education programme set up in 2009 in response to the increasing human-wildlife conflict and intolerance towards elephants. It aims to create a harmonious co-existence between elephants and humans.
According to the lead architect on the project, Sanderine Bierman, the centre was designed and built by carefully considering the environment and unique climate of the Namib Desert so that the physical structure could be sustainably designed.
Human-wildlife conflict, especially involving elephants, has become a growing issue in the country. Many conservancies and farms suffer damage to property and crops as a result.