Everybody loves friendly neighbours but what happens when the next door neighbours are a herd of elephants who compete for space?
According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the above scenario can present a multitude of problems for communities living alongside wildlife as they aggressively compete for space and resources while Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) liason officer, Elvis Mwilima, said communities living alongside wildlife, specifically those in the conservation areas, can learn to co-exist if the right steps are taken and he offered some suggestions.
He said although human-wildlife conflict is inevitable, there are concerted efforts from various stakeholders in supporting communities within the KAZA TFCA Namibian component to address and mitigate against such conflicts. A 2013 report released by MET, some 247 354 Namibians are currently residing in the Namibian component of the KAZA TFCA.
According to Mwilima, in the KAZA TFCA area, where the largest population of 250 000 elephants has been recorded, communities, particularly in Namibia’s compound of the KAZA TFCA, have found successful ways to effectively keep their conflict with the wildlife to a minimum through the programmes such as the human-wildlife conflict self-reliance scheme.
“This is a scheme devised to offset losses and damage caused by wildlife to farmers’ crops, livestock and for funeral assistance but not compensation as some people misconstrue it,” said Mwilima, adding that MET, through its Game Product Trust Fund, has provided a start-up capital to kick-start the scheme.
Some of the ways Mwilima said are being used include putting up lion proof fences to fend-off lions, using crocodile fences, erecting elephant protection walls and the use of chilli bombs.
But he said: “The most important tool is education and awareness to communities. Most communities are ignorant of the behaviour of dangerous animals and as such, fall victim and suffer losses in one way or another.”
|Fast facts: Elephants|
|Only one mammal that can’t jump||Elephant|
|Length of pregnancy for an elephant||22 months|
|Number of female elephants in a herd||Approx. 10|
|Normal lifespan of an elephant||60 – 80 year’s|
The report also points out that “Projects to monitor movement of animals are already underway. Elephant, crocodile, buffalo and other animals have been collard in North-East parks to determine their trans-boundry movements. Research will assist in identifying wildlife migration routes. This will help endeavours to reduce human-wildlife conflict.”
Furthermore, the report said, the conservancies are issued with an annual game hunting quota to generate revenue for the benefit of its membership and for sustaining the scheme. The KAZA TFCA project has also supported the MET in this regard by providing seed capital.
“There are specific conditions and guidelines on implementing the policy which is currently under review but there are some strategies being implemented already, and the human-wildlife conflict self-reliance scheme is one of them,” Mwilima said adding that crcodiles can be kept away by putting up fences at water points.
“These are constructed at those points where humans and livestock draw water for drinking or other purposes to prevent attacks from crocodiles and even hippos. The fences are built in such a way as to separate the humans and livestock from the crocodiles,” said Mwilima.
He also said people can avoid harm from elephants by erecting walls around water installations: “These are stone or rock walls built around water installations for humans and wildlife to prevent unruly elephants from damaging such installations in search of water.”
As for lions, Mwilima said that a strong no see-through kraals should be built: “Lions are inquisitive in nature and will therefore try to scare livestock out of a kraal to make a kill. Therefore, strong no see-through kraals are built in some areas that are frequented by lions to prevent such incidences from happening.”
According to Mwilima, chili-fences have been proven to be an effective detergent for elephants, although they require regular application during the rainy season. “Elephants have a good memory. Dry chilli fruit is crushed and moulded with cow or elephant dung into a brick or bomb like shape.
“The mould is dried up and when elephants are in the area (crop field etc), the bomb is lit up and as it smolders, the smoke has a very high choking effect that is not pleasant to elephants and humans. Elephants will move away and associate such an area with the unpleasant effect. This method is effective when used correctly with regards to the wind direction,” he said.
Rings or trenches, he also said, can be dug around installations such as solar panels to prevent them from damage. He encouraged farmers to farm away from rivers and to promote conservation farming (low input high yield farming practice on a small piece of land).
Eight out of 20 elephant, Mwilima pointed out, protection walls were constructed in the Kavango region. “Each of the 19 registered conservancies received N$60 000 as start up capital for the scheme.”
Date: 17 September 2013