By Johannes Hangula
MANY lives are lost each year due to human wildlife conflict, and this will be in the spotlight when the Ministry of Environment and Tourism hosts a conference focusing on human wildlife conflict management in Windhoek next month.
Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta announced last week that the conference will start on March 1 and end on March 3, which is World Wildlife Day.
Statistics from the Ministry show that last year alone, nine people were killed by wild animals and four others were injured including two of the Ministry’ staff members. Statistics also reveal that six people have been killed this year. As for livestock, 545 cattle, 79 sheep, 291 goats and 15 donkeys were killed by wild animals in 2016, and 46 cattle and nine goats have been killed so far this year.
Shifeta said human wildlife conflicts in Namibia have become more frequent and severe over the recent decade as a result of human and wildlife population growth, unplanned agricultural activities, and expansion of agricultural and industrial activities which together have led to increased human encroachment on previously wild and uninhabited areas.
“Competition for the available natural habitats and resources has increased. Moreover, the effects of climate change are exacerbating these conflicts. These conflicts are caused because of the competition between growing human and wildlife populations for the same living space and resources; movement of people for reasons of safety or food security; continued negative attitudes towards wildlife and protected areas; negligent exposure to areas with dangerous wildlife. For example the tendencies of people swimming in the Kavango and Zambezi 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 in incidents of human-wildlife conflict, 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 conversation,” said Shifeta
This national conference will discuss measures and strategies to be put in place in order to address the issue of human wildlife conflict and to finalise the Revised National Policy on Human Wildlife Conflict Management. The conference will be attended by community representatives from traditional authorities and conservancies from all regions, regional governors and chairpersons of regional councils, members of parliament, representatives from line ministries, non-governmental organisations, agricultural unions, farmers, hunting associations, tourism associations, institutions of higher learning and officials of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Regarding World Wildlife Day, Shifeta said, “We also like to dedicate the day to the proper management of the human wildlife conflict which is one of the major challenges that we are faced with at the moment. Furthermore, the day will be dedicated to our protected areas, and how best we can manage them for the benefit of the Namibian nation.” He further added that as part of its fundraising strategy, his ministry has organised a meeting on that day that will raise awareness on poaching, the need to intensify anti-poaching operations, as well as the need to raise funds for human wildlife conflict management and protected area management.
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