by Okeri Ngutjinazo – The Namibian
THE environment ministry has spent N$16,4 million on human-wildlife conflict cases in the past 10 years.
This was revealed last Wednesday by Richard Fryer, chief control warden in human-wildlife conflict management (HWCM) and conservation hunting during the annual meeting of the conservancy chairpersons’ forum held at Otjiwarongo last week.
The forum provides a dedicated platform to assess and review the successes, opportunities and challenges faced by conservancies.
Fryer, who was giving an overview on human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures, the role of conservancies, and funding sources, said they made these payments from 2008 to 2018.
HWCM provides measures and approaches to manage and reduce human-wildlife conflict in the country.
A total of 147 problem animals were shot by ministry officials or trophy hunters from 2017 to 2019, with the highest being lions (34) followed by crocodiles (29) and leopards (29).
Fryer noted that conflict between wild animals and people ranges from the destruction of crops and water installations, loss of livestock and homes, to the loss of human lives.
He further expressed concern that payments for 2019 could be higher due to the current drought.
Some of the mitigation measures implemented by the ministry were procuring 12 elephant collars, from which 10 were deployed in elephant conflict hot spots at Omatjete, Ugab, Kamanjab and north of the Etosha National Park. In April this year, GPS collars were bought, 15 lions were collared in 2018, one early warning unit was deployed in the Torra and Anabeb Conservancies in 2018, and two protection walls were constructed, while one was upgraded in the Okongwe emerging conservancy.
“The ministry’s staff routinely investigate conflict incidents, the translocation or destruction of problem animals, driving elephants back into parks, and deal with repairing fences, awareness-creation, information-sharing and advice,” Fryer stated. Eleven predator-proof kraals were also constructed in Kunene, and 15 boreholes rehabilitated, upgraded and tested in the Erongo conservancies.
In addition, three water tanks and cement were purchased to repair water infrastructure damaged by elephants in Kavango West, a chilli garden was revived at the ministry’s Ongwediva office, and there has been continuous training of local rangers by the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC)/Desert Lion Trust to tackle the lion menace in Kunene.
Fryer explained that the role of conservancies is to assist through community care and engagement to increase benefits to households to offset losses caused by wildlife, and the removal of problem animals by the reporting and identification of culprits.
“Mitigating the conflict through livestock management, penning, the consolidation of gardens and crops, and avoiding hot zones is another part,” he said. Last month, the ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, said cases of human-wildlife conflict continue to occur across the country as a result of the prevailing drought.
He explained that from April 2018 to March 2019, 12 people were injured – seven by hippopotamus, three by crocodiles, one from a lion encounter, and another by a leopard.
A total of 1 246 livestock were also lost across the country, and over 1 400 hectares of crop fields destroyed by various wild animals, mainly elephants.
“This is the minimum figure, as not all losses were reported, and losses on freehold farms are not included,” he said.
Muyunda added that the regions most affected are Kavango East and West, Zambezi, Kunene, Erongo, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena, Khomas, Otjozondjupa and Hardap, and that the government has put in place measures to mitigate the situation.