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Omatjete community pleads for action against elephants

The rural residents of Okotjize, situated 45km from Omatjete, say they are facing a severe crisis involving elephants.

This affects the seven households of the community.

Resident Veripurua Mureti says the menace has continued, despite reporting it to the traditional authorities and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

Mureti says a group of eight elephants almost damaged the water point once again on Friday night.

He says the elephants are “forever here”, causing not only chaos, but also material damage.

“A bull elephant came through around the houses and caused destruction,” Mureti says, showing The Namibian videos and photos of devastated crops, compromised water points and damaged community property.

The issue is further exacerbated by ongoing drought in the region, he says.

“We are fighting for our livestock, and still these elephants,” Mureti says.

Residents have expressed their disappointment at the lack of action from the authorities.

“I really do not understand till when are we going live like this with wild animals just disturbing our peace. We call this an independent country, but here we are suffering with wild animals.

“We have been reporting this matter, but no action is being taken at all. I really want the government to take steps on this, otherwise we are going take action on our own,” he says.

Zeraeua Traditional Authority senior councillor Fabianus Uaseuapuani says the issue is an ongoing one.

“I’m very aware of the elephants. It’s not a new matter. It’s a problem which has not been solved yet. Whenever the animals are stepping on the livelihoods of the people, we report it to the ministry.”

A committee has been established to find a solution to the increasing elephant intrusions, Uaseuapuani says.

Last Wednesday, a meeting was held where “mitigation measures were put in place to assist the community regarding the elephants,” he says.

However, if nobody helps, it is a very serious problem, he says.

“Those elephants must either be sold or put down,” he says.

Uaseuapuani says when an elephant is shot the government responds much faster than when human lives are at risk.

He says while officials are looking for an “amicable, lasting solution”, tensions between the community and elephants persist.

If a solution is not found soon, residents may take drastic action to protect their homes and livelihoods, he says.

“We want immediate assistance and intervention from the ministry,” Uaseuapuani says.

Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda says the ministry is aware of the human-wildlife conflicts in the area.

“We sympathise with the communities over their losses.

“The ministry is working tirelessly to address this problem. Elephants and other wildlife species are natural resources, which, according to law, should be preserved and used in a sustainable manner.”

He says balancing costs and benefits is challenging.

“We are looking for ways to ensure the cost of coexistence does not outweigh the benefits. This is what has led to establishment of conservancies so that communities are able derive livelihood benefits for the coexistence with wild animals.”

The expansion of human settlements into wildlife habitats worsens the conflicts, Muyunda says.

“In some instances, crop fields are started in the wildlife habitats. We have started in some of the affected regions to map and identify wildlife corridors to avoid such situations.

“We continue to endeavour to solve this problem.”