By Arlana Shikongo, The Namibian
Proceeds from the planned auction of 170 elephants from Namibia will be deposited into the Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF) for use on wildlife conservation and rural development projects.
This is according to the executive director in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Teofilus Nghitila, who was responding to local and international concerns about Namibia’s decision to sell the elephants.
The proceeds will go towards wildlife crime prevention and law enforcement (anti-poaching), protected area management, and human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects.
“The GPTF is a mechanism to ensure that revenue realised from the sale of wildlife products is used for wildlife conservation, communal conservation and rural development programmes aimed at harmonising the co-existence of human and wildlife, thus securing a future for wildlife outside of and within protected areas in Namibia,” Nghitila said.
The elephant sale has drawn widespread criticism, as animal rights groups and others expressed concern over dwindling elephant populations around the world.
Contrary to the decline in elephant numbers observed elsewhere, Nghitila said Namibia has seen a consistent increase in its elephant population over the years.
“There are more elephants in Namibia today than at any [given] time in the past 100 years,” he added.
According to him, removing 170 elephants amounts to less than 1% of the country’s elephant population of approximately 24 000. The population is reportedly growing at 5% per year.
“The intention is to remove around half of the elephants in four conflict hotspots only, and not to reduce the population in general.
“The 170 off-take is extremely conservative. This is well below sustainable off-take levels, and the population continues to grow and expand,” Nghitila said.
He said the elephants to be auctioned off will come from communal and commercial farming areas where human-elephant conflict continues to cause disruption.
Thirty elephants will be taken from the Omatjete area, 50 from the Kamanjab commercial farming area, 60 from the Grootfontein-Kavango cattle ranch area and 30 from the Grootfontein-Tsumkwe area.
Last year, elephants damaged 3 450 hectares of crop land, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said last week.
He also detailed that the ministry paid out over N$5 million to farmers and conservancies for livestock loss, crop damages, injuries to people and loss of life under the Human Wildlife Conflict Self Reliance Scheme.
These funds came from the GPTF. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) argues that the sale of the elephants would not solve human-elephant conflict issues and is contrary to the guidance of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), to which Namibia is a party.
The African elephant population of Namibia is listed under appendix II of Cites, which encompasses species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.
Namibia was set to open bids for the animal sale tender last week, however, the ministry has not yet made an announcement in that regard.