Namibian Sun

 

Efforts to erect an elephant- and predator-proof fence around Etosha National Park and managing the human-wildlife conflict have been thwarted by logistical and financial challenges.

The fencing project which started six years ago has only covered 112km of the 822km.

According to the minister of environment and tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, the ministry started the construction and electrification of the elephant- and predator-proof fence in 2011.

“Over the past six years, only 112 kilometres of the fence have been upgraded and 710 kilometres remain.”

According to him, the slightly more than 700km that still need to be upgraded and completed will cost at least N$500 million.

“Quotations are between N$1 to 2 million per kilometre. It will take half a billion dollars to get the fence completed. Without this money, we will not be able to finish it,” Shifeta said.

He said one of the reasons why the fence had taken so long to complete was because tenders were awarded to companies that did not have the competence to do the work and “were just taking chances”.

“They were unable to the job and did not have the necessary skills and abandoned the job.”

Shifeta said action would be taken against farmers living adjacent to the park who put up their fences against the Etosha boundary fence. He said the ministry had repeatedly requested the farmers to remove their fences but they ignored it.

“Action will be taken and now the only thing I can do is to go to court if they do not take down these fences. Etosha is by law a national park and it is no longer part of communal land,” the minister said.

The park boundary borders the Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Kunene regions. This boundary consists of different types of fences but the main one is a 1.2-metre-high stock-proof fence.

Commenting on human-wildlife conflict, Shifeta said 25 lions had killed so far this year. Nineteen of these were killed illegally while the rest were killed by ministry officials or professional hunters after being declared problem animals.

Six of the lions were killed illegally in the Omusati Region, and one in Oshana, In the Kunene Region three lions were poisoned and nine shot. No arrests have been made.

Shifeta said the estimated lion population in Namibia currently stood at 700, with 430 lions in Etosha. The park’s carrying capacity is about 350 lions.

“Lions escape from the Etosha National Park now and then. They are attracted by livestock that graze along the Etosha National Park because farmers established cattle posts or graze livestock close to the park,” the minister said.

With regard to the investigation into lions shot by David ‘Kambwa’ Sheehama Kambwa, a police docket was opened and forwarded to the office of the prosecutor-general.

Shifeta said the investigation found that the number of livestock Kambwa claimed to have been killed by lions was inflated.

In an effort to address the increasing human-wildlife conflict, Shifeta said the ministry had developed a lion management plan.

“One of the strategies is to determine the number of animals that can be removed when there are conflict problems. Response to the conflict should be quick, based on information made available. Population numbers should be maintained to scientifically accepted carrying capacities.”

The plan for Etosha includes capturing and moving lions to other areas where they will not cause conflict.

“Lions that leave Etosha will be captured, branded and translocated to identified areas. Should such animals continue to cause problems then they can be destroyed. Reduction management strategies also include trophy hunting of certain animals,” Shifeta said.

ELLANIE SMIT