By Arlana Shikongo – The Namibian
A TWELVE-person team from the Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) organisation climbed Namibia’s highest mountain to raise N$500 000 in funds for their elephant conservation efforts.
The team, led by Seth Ga’aseb from the National Heritage Council of Namibia, climbed to the highest peak of the Brandberg Mountain over two days to secure sponsorship from both international and national supporters.
According to EHRA conservation programme manager Christin Winter, most of the sponsorship came from private donors. Pupkewitz Motors was the only local corporate to sponsor the initiative.
EHRA’s work aims to ease human-elephant conflict in the northern Erongo and southern Kunene regions in an effort to conserve the country’s free-roaming desert elephants.
According to the not-for-profit organisation, the fundraising effort came as the Covid-19 pandemic hindered their usual methods of soliciting financing for their projects.
“Covid-19 hit us badly as we generated 90% of our funds through volunteering and tourism initiatives, which was a sustainable financing strategy, until borders closed,” EHRA managing director Rachel Harris said.
She explained that during this time, conflicts between elephants and communities continued to increase, which demonstrated a need for the organisation’s services.
“We have had to get creative to keep EHRA alive. This includes new partnerships with international foundations, new merchandise campaigns and now, challenging the whole team to climb to the peak of Brandberg to raise money.
“The money we raised will help us cover our operational costs for the next few months,” Harris said.
The group reached the mountain’s highest peak, Königstein, which is 2 573 metres above sealevel.
EHRA conservation programme assistant Anna Sheehama described the endeavour as challenging but an indication of what can be achieved through teamwork.
“It was a huge physical challenge, but the incredible teamwork made it possible for us to complete the challenge. Knowing we were in it together put me at ease. I think I have a newfound respect for the team and the work we do,” Sheehama, said.
Efforts to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Namibia remain a priority as the country’s healthy and growing elephant populations face several obstacles.
Executive director in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism Teofilus Nghitila has in the past said that contrary to the decline in elephant numbers observed elsewhere, Namibia has seen a consistent increase in its elephant population over the years. According to him, there are more elephants in Namibia today than at any given time in the past 100 years.