The Namibian Sun

Ellanie Smit
October 28, 2021

See link for photo.

WINDHOEK: There is currently no support available to commercial farmers to deal with human-elephant conflict, yet around 400 elephants occur permanently or frequently on commercial farms.

Namibia’s elephant population has increased from 7,000 since independence to an estimated 24,000.

According to the National Elephant and Conservation Plan recently launched by the environment ministry, there are around 60 elephants in the Omatjete area, 200 in the Kamanjab area and up to 100 in the Mangetti and north-eastern Grootfontein areas.

The report said many conflicts involve resettled and commercial farmers who are generally heavily indebted and cannot sustain continuous repairs to fix the damage done by elephants.“There are indications that some farms have become unusable or that production is scaled down to a part of a farm.”

According to the Overview of Elephant Conservation and Management in Namibia report released by the ministry last week, public consultations held last year indicated that at least 180 freehold farms have been affected by free-moving elephants.

“With about 31% of Namibia’s elephant population and about 65% of the known elephant distribution range occurring outside formally protected areas, primarily on communal and some free-hold land, it is not surprising that one of the major challenges experienced for elephant management in Namibia is human-elephant conflict,” the report read.

This, it said, is experienced through the raiding of crops, disrupting livestock production and occasionally killing livestock, destroying water supplies, demolishing grain stores and houses, injuring and even killing people.

“The costs of such conflict can be significant.”

Food and Water

However, the report noted that there is currently no consolidated national database on incidents of human-wildlife conflict or human-elephant conflict so information needed to be extracted from different sources.

“Furthermore, although elephants are responsible for a considerable amount of infrastructure damage, detailed data on this damage is also not available as offset payments for infrastructure are not included in the Human-Wildlife Conflict Self-Reliance Scheme.”

According to the report, elephants mostly come into conflict with humans over food and water, causing losses of crops or damage to infrastructure.

“They are also considered a threat to people’s safety, although data from offset payments made by the environment ministry through the Game Products Trust Fund indicates that elephants account for only 8% of the reported cases of loss of life due to human-wildlife cases.”

Crocs Most Deadly

Crocodiles are responsible for the majority at 68%, followed by hippos (20%) and leopards at 4%.

Meanwhile, data from the ministry suggests that 97% of crop damage in communal land outside conservancies is caused by elephants.

According to the data, the estimated value of the crop losses, based on the offset values, was more than N$2.1 million in 2018, and more than N$1.7 million in 2019.