By Ellanie Smit – The Namibian Sun
WINDHOEK: With only a week left until the bidding process closes for the sale of 170 of Namibia’s elephants, opposition is mounting, with thousands that have already signed online petitions calling for the sale to be cancelled.
However, spokesperson of the environment ministry Romeo Muyunda told Namibian Sun that they will not allow communities living with elephants to suffer at the expense of the emotions of people that do not understand the situation on the ground.
The ministry in December advertised 170 elephants for sale, saying it was in response to the drought and the increase in the animals’ numbers, coupled with human-elephant conflict. These elephants are from the Omatjetje area, the Kamanjab commercial farming area, Grootfontein-Kavango Cattle Ranch area and the Grootfontein-Tsumkwe area.
Since then, several online petitions against the sale have popped up on change.org. One of these, ‘Tell the Namibian government we are against selling entire herds to the highest bidder’, had gained 3,136 signatures by yesterday. Another petition called ‘Namibia: Do not sell 170 live elephants’ had garnered 3,255 signatures by yesterday.
Lastly, a petition that was initially started as ‘No more hunting of desert elephants in Namibia’, which has been signed by more than 104,978 people, has been renamed ‘Namibia’s Dirty Deal: Selling 170 live elephants to clear the way for oil drilling?’
Asked about the petitions and the negative reactions that the sale has sparked, Muyunda said the ministry was “doing the right thing for conservation”. He said the areas from where elephants will be sold are those where the population is growing and human-wildlife conflict is on the increase.
Muyunda added that these areas have also suffered from drought and therefore the growing elephant population puts pressure on the environment and on resources. “The environment also needs a chance to recover and there needs to be enough vegetation and resources for the entire population.”
He said through the sale the ministry can generate funds to reinvest in conservation.
Referring to the third petition, Muyunda stressed that the ministry was not selling any elephants from the Kavango or Zambezi regions. The petition refers to the oil and gas exploration by the Canadian company Reconnaissance Africa (ReconAfrica) in the Kavango Region. It claims that the reason why Namibia is selling the 170 elephants is to allow for the drilling of oil and gas.
Free For All
The ministry said it would sell the animals to anyone in Namibia or abroad that meets the criteria, which include quarantine facilities and a game-proof fence certificate for the property where the elephants will be kept. For export purposes, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) requirements must be met, the ministry said.
Foreign buyers must also provide proof that conservation authorities in their countries will permit them to import elephants.
Offers for the elephants close on 29 January. Muyunda said they would open the tender box in the presence of all bidders once the bids have closed.