By Arlana Shikongo, The Namibian
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has shot back at critics who say it prioritises the lives of wild animals over those of human beings. This was issued in a press statement issued by the ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, yesterday.
The ministry has been criticisd on various platforms last week for its effort in the relocation of Swakopmund’s ‘Christmas’ elephant.
The elephant was relocated from the Swakopmund River to N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Reserve near Windhoek on Saturday.
In a media statement on Monday, Muyunda said the ministry was simply acting on its mandate to protect wildlife. “We wish to clarify our mandate to protect wildlife is done to sustain our livelihoods as people. Wildlife is a resource the government has committed to protect, so that we all benefit collectively as a country.
“Because of our wildlife, the country generates revenue from tourists and tourism businesses exploring and experiencing Namibia,” he said.
Muyunda said the ministry decided to relocate the elephant bull because he posed a risk to the high number of people moving in and around the river. He said the elephant was reported to be frequenting the Rossmund golf course damaging plants and vegetation, and posing a risk to residents.
The elephant bull was first spotted on the outskirts of Swakopmund’s residential area on 24 December 2019.
The ministry, with the help of the Namibian Police, the Swakopmund Town Council and volunteers, attempted to guide him back towards the Omaruru River. The operation was funded by Na’an ku sê.
In January, the elephant was collared to allow the ministry to track his movements. “He settled in an area with abundant browsing and access to water until 8 February, when he once again walked towards the coast. The ministry quickly responded, and he was left to settle in the Swakopmund River until recently when the need to relocate him emerged,” Muyunda said.
He said the large mammal needed to be moved because the vegetation in the river was not suited to his nutritional needs, which raised health concerns. “Contrary to the critics, we believe this was the right decision given the time and resource constraints we were faced with. The nature reserve where the elephant is [now] has sufficient vegetation, water, other elephants and veterinary services in case of any health concerns,” Muyunda said.