Namibia News

Namibia to sell 200 wild elephants in face of drought and threat to humans

A long-running drought and increased conflict with humans has prompted the Namibian government to sell off more than 200 wild elephants, sparking welfare concerns about animal auctions.

On Wednesday, the state-owned New Era newspaper carried an advertisement stating that worsening environmental conditions and human-elephant conflict were the reasons for the sale.

Namibia has battled a persistent drought for close to four years that has dried up pastures and shrunk grazing lands. Water resources in national parks have dwindled and elephants are now wandering closer to human settlements in search of food and water, threatening many lives.

Namibia’s elephant population has increased three-fold in the last 30 years, hitting 24,000 in 2019 up from 7,500 in 1995.

Conflict between elephants and humans is increasing across Africa and Asia, with about 100 people killed by the beasts every year in India alone. 

The Namibian government says the sale of the elephants will stop the animals starving and minimise the danger to human lives.

About 64,000 animals died from starvation in the country in 2018 alone, highlighting the threats that Africa’s wildlife face as climate change wreaks havoc on the continent.

Reducing animal populations through sales or hunting concessions is becoming common across Southern Africa, which is experiencing its worst drought in decades. 

While the sales are legal – the animals are not threatened or considered to be critically endangered – it is unclear who the likely buyers are or where the animals will be exported to.

Wildlife activists have criticised Namibia’s decision to auction the animals, which they say will be bought by people in the game industry who use the animals for hunting expeditions or to produce meat and hide.

Others say it is a matter of balance.

“On one hand elephants are intelligent, sensitive and family-oriented creatures- broken family units often become ‘problem’ animals,” says Maria Diekmann of the Namibian wildlife organisation, REST.

“One can also argue that to watch an elephant starve or die of disease due to overpopulation is a cruel and heartless death. Overpopulation can cause massive environmental damage and problems for other species such as birds of prey as trees are destroyed,” she said. 

Namibia wants more freedom to export animals and allow trophy hunting. In 2019, the country sold off up to 1,000 animals and up to 100 more have been sold this year already.

Last year, Namibia  threatened  to pull out from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which regulates international trade in species under threat.

 “I think it’s all about balance and ethics and I would hope that the government will hold to the highest the transparency of the operation, rather than getting defensive and secretive,” Ms Diekmann added.

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