Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun
The environment ministry has rubbished assumptions made on social media about the killing of a 50-year-old elephant bull that was destroyed last week in the Omatjete area. He was shot by a trophy hunter on 25 June.
The ministry’s executive director Teofilus Nghitila said in a statement they are concerned about the “inaccurate, rubbish and false reports and assumptions” made through social media about the elephant that is popularly known as Voortrekker. Voortrekker was a pioneer for the elephant population in the Ugab and Huab rivers.
This elephant was one of the first to venture back to the region after populations were decimated during the turbulent warfare years in southern Africa.
The elephant was killed last week in the Omatjete area in the Erongo Region by a government-appointed hunter who paid N$120 000 for the hunt of which N$20 000 went to the Game Product Trust Fund and the rest to the community.
According to Nghitila, some self-proclaimed conservationists are criticising the hunt “which was declared a problem-causing animal in accordance with the Revised National Policy on Human Wildlife Conflict Management 2018, and the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975”.
Nghitila said that the elephant was declared a problem causing animal after a “lengthy investigation and careful monitoring”. “There have been persistent problems caused by this elephant to the extent that the conflict became an intolerable burden on resident communities and a threat to human lives.”
However, retired deputy prosecutor-general Advocate Daniel Small is of the view that at the very least, an independent, comprehensive and thorough investigation seems necessary to remove any doubts as to the legality of the investigation and the issuing of the permits that allowed the killing of Voortekker.
Small posted a lengthy statement on social media regarding the incident. “Unlike baboons, lynx, dassies and black-backed jackals, elephants have not been declared problem animals under Section 53 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance,” says Small.
According to him Section 37 allows for the hunting of game to protect grazing, cultivated lands and gardens specifically, but excludes the killing of elephant, hippopotami and rhino for this reason.
“Elephants thus may not be killed to protect grazing, cultivated lands and gardens. This section also does regulate the killing of for example elephants in defence of human life, livestock, or other property such as structures or water installations.”
He said that Section 36 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance only allows for the killing of specially protected game like elephants in defence of a human life or to prevent a person from being injured, or to protect any livestock, poultry or domestic animal while their life is actually being threatened.
“Thus, no killing is allowed if the elephant is not in the act of threatening such person or livestock, by for example tracking the elephant after it caused damage, and then killing it.”
Minister Has the Power
Spokesperson of the ministry Romeo Muyunda, however, told Namibian Sun Section 53 allows for the minister to declare any wild animal a problem animal throughout Namibia or within such part or parts of Namibia as it may in its discretion determine.
Nghitila further explained that communities of Omatjete have been complaining about “elephants causing damage to property and threatening the lives of people for a long time”. One person was been killed by elephants over the past few years. The ministry had to launch an N$4-million project to upgrade water infrastructure for the communities and to provide alternative water points for elephants in the area.
According to him the communities of Soris Soris, Otjimboyo and Tsiseb had asked for Voortrekker not to be destroyed. “We understand that the request was made to the minister at the influence of some NGOs and individuals in the area as the letter by the three conservancies to the ministry was not even signed by the legitimate persons in the conservancies.”
He stressed that the human-elephant conflict was not reported in those areas, but in Omatjete and therefore the elephant was declared a problem-causing animal.
Nghitila said Voortrekker was declared a problem-causing animal in line with the nature Conservation Act of 1996, the Elephant Management Plan, the National Policy on Community Based Natural Resource Management and the Revised National Policy on Human Wildlife Conflict Management by the ministry after a long period of monitoring and putting preventative measures in place to avoid damages to human property.