Dealing with human wildlife conflict

Dealing with human wildlife conflict

It will not be possible to eradicate conflict, however the conflict has to be managed in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Human wildlife conflict is God’s creation.

Our National Parks are some of Namibia’s most valuable assets. They are our national treasures and their tourism potential should be harnessed for the benefit of all people. Communities resident and neighbouring National Parks have therefore been targeted for concessions from National Parks as they often suffer livestock and crop losses due to wildlife leaving Parks and Game Reserves. Such communities will benefit if they adopt tourism and wildlife management as land users in areas adjacent to the National Parks, and if they gain a stake in the success, management and benefit from the parks.

The Government has also encouraged the management of wildlife for commercial use on freehold farms in terms of existing legislation. Such management contributes and continues to contribute to the conservation of wildlife species and for specific habitat protection for the maintenance of biodiversity. The commercial use of wildlife species will offset the losses that such species cause on such land.

Despite all these successes, the Government recognizes that living with wildlife often carries a cost, increased wildlife populations and expanded ranges into communal and freehold farming areas result in more frequent conflicts between people and wild animals.

The Government also recognizes that such conflicts have always existed where people and wildlife live together and will continue to do so in the future. This means that it will not be possible to eradicate conflict, however the conflict has to be managed in the most effective and efficient ways possible. Human wildlife conflict is God’s creation. Wild animals occur in areas outside National Parks and conservancies in Namibia.

Certain predators occur almost everywhere in the country. Species such as elephants migrate from one area to the other or from one country to the other, hippos and crocodiles are in all rivers in the north east. The presence of these animals, combined with settlement patterns of people, often leads to conflict between people and wildlife.

It should also be recognized that people and wildlife live in an interconnected and dynamic environment, that land use patterns are changing and that wildlife distribution patterns equally are changing, as populations recover and recolonize former parts of their distribution areas.

Because of competition between growing human population and wildlife for the same living space and resources, movement of people for food security, drought flood, continued negative attitudes towards wildlife and protected areas, negligent exposure to areas with dangerous wildlife, modification of wildlife habitats due to infrastructure development, agriculture, green schemes, fishing and other developmental projects, there has been reports of human wildlife conflict in the regions.

It is also evident that the wide spread serious drought in almost all of Namibia over the past year is aggravating the situation. People and wildlife in several places compete for the same resources. In some areas of the country, people have simply invaded land set aside for wildlife, with consequently severe conflicts.

Nonetheless, there are ways to mitigate such conflicts and the Ministry is engaged within its resource limits in this matter.

Conflicts caused by wild animals or related to this conflict include loss of human life and injuries to people, injuries and death of livestock, damage to property like water points and boreholes, fences, gates, kraals and houses, damage to vegetation, competition with livestock for forage and destruction of crops and gardens.

In 2016, nine (9) people were killed by wild animals and four (4) others were injured. As for livestock, five hundred and forty five (545) cattle, seventy nine (79) sheep, two hundred and ninety one (291) goals and fifteen (15) donkeys have been killed by wild animals while seventy one (71) incidents of crop damage with an estimate of ninety four (94) hectares were recorded. There could be many more unreported cases but the low number on crop damages could be as a result of poor rainfall during the 2015/2016 season which resulted in many farmers not ploughing.

In 2015, twelve (12) people were killed by wild animals and four (4) others were injured. For livestock, four hundred and ninety one (491) cattle, eight four (84) sheep, three hundred and fifty nine (359) goats, two (2) horses and seventeen (17) donkeys have been killed by wild animals while two hundred and thirty (230) incidents of crop damage with an estimate of four hundred and ninety (490) hectares were recorded.

For 2014, eighteen (18) people were killed by wild animals and no injuries were recorded while for livestock, two hundred and thirty one (231) cattle, twenty six (26) sheep, two hundred and fifteen (215) goats, and eight (8) donkeys have been killed by wild animals while three hundred and fifty eight (358) incidents of crop damage with an estimate of five hundred and ninety six (596) hectares were recorded.

In 2013, thirteen (13) people were killed by wild animals and three (3) others were injured. For livestock, three hundred and eighty four (384) cattle, fifty six (56) sheep, two hundred and eight (208) goats, six (6) horses and eleven (11) donkeys have been killed by wild animals while one hundred and forty six (146) incidents of crop damage with an estimate of two hundred and eight seven (287) hectares were recorded.

This year, seven (7) people have already been killed by wild animals and forty six (46) cattle and nine (9) goats have also been killed. Twenty one (21) incidents of crop damages have been reported with an estimated of fifty seven (57) hectares.

The above conflicts occurred because of competition between growing human population and wildlife for the same living space and resources; drought; floods; movements of people for reasons of safety or food security; continued negative attitudes towards wildlife and Protected Areas; negligent exposure to areas with dangerous wildlife, such as swimming in the Rivers; and modification of wildlife habitats due to infrastructure development, agriculture, green schemes, fishing and other developmental projects.

Many wild animals are destroyed in retaliation for incidents of human-wildlife conflicts, even when the identification of the real culprit is not possible, especially with predators. This may eliminate the species and affect the ecosystem and home ranges. This also has a broader environmental impact on ecosystem equilibrium and biodiversity conservation.

Human Wildlife Conflict therefore can have social and economic impacts. It reduces cash income and has repercussions for health, nutrition, education and ultimately development. This conflict can have negative impact on the livelihood of rural communities. The ban of hunting of species that are killed in large numbers as problem animals, which may generate income for the State, rural communities and farmers when hunted as trophy animals can also have a negative implication.

There are also economic costs of damage caused by wild animals, and the exposure to wildlife diseases, physical injuries and loss of human lives in some cases disrupts normal lives of families and has financial implications.

However, addressing human wildlife conflict requires striking a balance between conservation priorities and the needs of people who live with wildlife. We want to manage human wildlife conflict in a way that recognizes the rights and development needs of local communities, farmers, recognizes the need to promote biodiversity conservation, promotes self-reliance and ensures that

A variety of approaches can be implemented in order to manage the conflict efficiently and effectively, in line with the strategies set out in the policy. These include prevention strategies which endeavour to avoid the conflict occurring in the first place and take action towards addressing ist root causes, and protection strategies that are implemented when the conflict is certain to happen or has already occurred, as w ell as mitigation strategies that attempt to reduce the level of impact and lessen the problem.

These strategies include the duty of care so that every person takes reasonable measures to prevent or minimize damage being caused or to be caused by wildlife, land use planning, community care and engagement, recognizing wildlife corridors and their migratory routes, developing and implementing the best appropriate technical solutions for mitigating human wildlife conflict, increasing hunting quotas and tourism benefits, removing problem causing animals, building human capacity and provision of resources, public awareness and education, and many others. We are here at this conference to review the challenges, opportunities and problems we have through this conflict and how best we can put measures in place to avoid or reduce this conflict. We need to further deliberate on the best possible solution that we can put in place to manage this conflict.

With the current challenges and new innovative ideas on how to address the conflict, it has become imperative that the National Policy on Human Wildlife Conflict Management be reviewed. The new policy should be focused and specific on affected areas and the specific conflict should be addressed. The policy should also have an implementation plan that also outlines the required human and financial resources required to deal with the problem. This is excerpt from the statement by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, at the National Conference on Human Wildlife Conflict Management that took place in Windhoek this week.

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