By Ellanie Smit – The Namibian Sun
WINDHOEK: A year after the environment ministry first announced a tender to auction 170 elephants, it says that the capturing of the 57 elephants that were eventually sold is close to completion.
The ministry is still adamant that it will not disclose any information about the bidders, or the countries the elephants are being exported to, out of fear of retaliation.
“The ministry is not in the position to give details at this point regarding the auction. At an appropriate time and when the entire process is complete, we will give full details,” said ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda.
Speculation has been rife that Namibia will be exporting elephants to a zoo in Dubai.
Rumours emerged this week that more than 20 captured elephants are being kept at a private wildlife sanctuary.
Muyunda told Namibian Sun that they do not want to disclose any information out of fear of retaliation from animal rights groups.
He said because of the global outcry against the elephant auction, the ministry fears that the buyers may be targeted and may even pull out. “That is why the decision has been taken that information will only be disclosed once the entire process has been finalised.”
The sale sparked widespread opposition, with online petitions calling for it to be cancelled and conservationists speaking out against it.
However, despite the opposition, the ministry went ahead with the auction and sold the 57 elephants for N$5.9 million.
Several complaints have been made by conservation groups to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) that Namibia is not complying with international laws.
According to an investigation by the US welfare organisation Animal Survival International (ASI), these elephants, including calves, are likely to be sent to zoos and safari parks in the Middle East.
The Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed that it is expecting elephants early next year but would not say from where. Previous elephant exports to the UAE required a five-month quarantine period.
The Pro Elephant Network (PREN), has said that several elephant family groups have already been captured in Namibia and are in quarantine, ready for export.
It said these elephants will most likely be exported to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a South African wildlife trader involved.
“The UAE does not have an in-situ population of elephants. It has already imported wild elephants from Namibia who are kept in captivity,” the group said.
It said a South African environmental law firm, Cullinan and Associates, has stepped in to make a legal case.
The elephants are from the Omatjetje area (30), the Kamanjab commercial farming area (50), the Grootfontein-Kavango cattle ranch area (60) and the Grootfontein-Tsumkwe area (30).