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Elephant Conservation Challenges

The problem: Elephant - Human Conflict

Namibia's desert-dwelling elephants are of high conservation priority, both nationally and internationally. They are one of only 2 populations of elephants in Africa (the other one is in Mali) living in a desert environment. Additionally, they are one of Namibia’s major tourist attractions, generating millions of dollars in revenue annually for the country.

 Baby elephant trying to find his feet

But they face the same problems other elephant populations around the world face with human - elephant conflict, decreasing space to live due to increasing numbers of humans and their livestock settling in their formerly vast range areas, thus more competition for scarce food and water resources.  Plus their numbers are increasing as well. 

 

Potential human elephant conflict in Namibia

Although elephants used to roam throughout most of western Namibia, they were reduced to fewer than 300 animals by the early 1990s from rampant over-hunting. Since then, protected under Namibia's law and merging conservation organizations, they have expanded their range from the north, where they were safer living among the nomadic Himba people, as far south as the Erongo Region, as well as east onto
commercial farmland.  Many of the Damara and Herero people who moved into the arid homelands of northwest Namibia are not familiar with elephants, and so are often frightened and angry when elephants come to drink at water reservoirs near their homesteads.

On both communal and commercial farms, the elephants may  damage the water installations, pulling out pipes, toppling windmills or breaking engines and pumps out of curiosity and mischievousness or due to lack of water. A herd of 10 or more elephants can easily empty a concrete or zinc reservoir of water meant for livestock and family needs.  Sometimes they forage in gardens, leaving families without food, or they break fences and scatter cattle, sheep and goats, sometimes injuring or killing one. Damage can also be caused to homesteads.

 

 

 

 

Example of elephant human conflict Namibia

 Local resident with tusk holes in the wall of his house

On few occasions, elephants have killed people.  The reality of living with elephants is often overlooked by most people.  To be inside a house made of mud and sticks whilst a herd of elephants are outside is an incredibly scary experience. Local communites have lost the knowledge of how to live side by side with the elephants and often reactions towards elephants provoke a dangerous situation.  EHRA's PEACE Project aims to address this problem and help local people live safely and without fear of the elephants. 

 

 Desert elephant bull Namibia

Raphael, a bull from the Huab who was shot in September 2009 as a 'problem animal'.

If many complaints are received MET officials may declare an elephant as a "problem animal", and issue a hunting permit.  A hunter pays for the privilege of shooting the elephant, the local community then receive money to help offset the cost of damages caused by the elephant, as well as its meat.  This currently is one of the few ways people benefit from living with elephants in their vicinity. The government are under alot of pressure in providing solutions to elephant-human conflict and EHRA attempts to aleivate this situation by providing realistic solutions to people living with the elephants, and in turn helping to conserve the desert elephants.

Read about EHRA's work here.