THE upkeep of available habitat for elephants inside game parks and in conservation areas should be at the heart of efforts to ensure that the animals survive as a species.
The Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) weighed in on the debate about the Namibian Government’s plan to sell 170 live elephants on the open market and in a statement said the conservation should be approached holistically.
“Conservationists have to take a holistic look at what needs to be done to conserve elephants for future generations. In order to do this, we have to put emotions aside and we need to base our decisions and understanding on scientific facts. That is if we really want to sustainably protect natural surroundings. And that should be the essence of it all: protect natural surroundings, habitats, instead of focussing on individual species or, even worse, on individual animals,” the association said.
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism (MEFT) said it, and by implication, the government has a responsibility to first and foremost protect the lives of Namibian citizens.
“This is a vitally important aspect when one has to consider the bigger picture. Conservation can simply not be at the expense of human life at large; that is something we will have to live with.”
The association said that it is important to consider the carrying capacity of a specific habitat if conservation is going to be done properly.
“Historically, wild animals were able to freely move between dry and rainy season feeding grounds. These migrations between the seasons enabled habitat to rehabilitate and rejuvenate likewise. Today, with the dramatic loss, fragmentation, and degradation by humans of habitat, rehabilitation and rejuvenation does not take place anymore or is severely impacted. All of these things negatively affect the carrying capacity over time. This should be a serious matter of concern.”
The MEFT expanded the elephant range in recent times but the expansion of range does not necessarily equal availability of habitat. It may well mean that the original habitat where the elephant expands from is either saturated or in such a bad state that it can simply not maintain high elephant numbers anymore.
“However, romantic it sounds, Uis is plainly not elephant habitat. Neither are communal areas near Omatjete or commercial farming areas to the east of Grootfontein. Any serious livestock farmer will make it clear to you that farming in the true sense of the word and elephant are not compatible.”
The association said that the same goes for communal subsistence farmers.
“If an elephant destroys crops or kill livestock and these farmers have nothing left to subsist on. This is the predicament the ministry sits with, and that has led to the auctioning off of elephants.”
The sale of the elephants in the short-term aims to alleviate problems that are simply not bearable any longer.