About Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA)
Elephant Human Relations Aid is an Namibian registered not-for-gain organisation (registration number 21/2003/630) which runs an elephant conservation and volunteer project in Namibia, Africa.
EHRA aims to find long-term sustainable solutions to the ever-growing problem of facilitating the peaceful co-habitation between the subsistence farmers, community members and the desert-adapted elephants.
In the 1980s the population of desert-adapted elephants in the Southern Kunene Region of Damaraland were wiped out through years of poaching and hunting. For years elephants were absent from the area. This was until 1998 when Voortrekker, a bull, led Mama Africa's herd back to the Ugab River. From that point other herds followed until today where there are a total of 7 elephant herds in the Ugab and Huab River vicinities.
Through concerted efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), Save the Rhino Trust and other NGOs over the past 20 years, the population of desert dwelling elephants in the region has grown from as low as 52 members to a current estimated population of 600 elephants.
While most people agree that the elephants returning is a good thing, it also causes problems for the people that live in the areas the elephants are returning to.
With independence and the cessation of over-hunting during Namibia's war for independence, elephants expanded their range to the south and east into territories they have not occupied for many years. Subsistence farmers husbanding mainly cattle, goats and sheep traditionally occupy these areas since the establishment of homelands. As a result, competition for water and grazing has escalated tremendously, causing conflict between farmers and elephants.
Left: Local Damaraland homestead
Depletion of the natural water table with increasing human use has led to less available surface water for consumption. Therefore, man-made water points located close to the riverbeds have become the target for elephants in their quest for fresh water.
Left: Elephants drinking at dam
In their search for the source of water, elephants can cause extensive damage to windmills, dams, reservoirs, hand-pumps and wells. As the family homesteads are normally located close to the water source, secondary damage is also caused and the lives of humans and livestock can be threatened.
Left: Windmill damaged by elephants
With the escalation of tourism as an increasing revenue source for these communities, the value of elephants and other wildlife in communal areas has increased dramatically. EHRA believes that through assisting these communities by constructing protective structures around water points (with the help of the volunteer project members), educating community members about elephant behavior, creating alternative drinking points for the elephants and promoting tourism in the affected areas, we can assist in alleviating the current pressure facing communal farmers. Thereby helping to promote the future of the desert dwelling elephant in harmony with the continuous positive development of the conservancies and their ideals.
Left: Finished wall protecting a windmill