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Human-wildlife conflict remains a constant problem in Namibia

WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- Seven years ago, 48 year old Zatrick Mbanga, a farmer from Namibia’s northeast Zambezi region was attacked by a hippo and he lost his right arm and foot during the attack.

This happened as he was busy tending to his maize crops while also keeping a look out for wild animals that had been ravaging his crops, something that has become a norm for people in his area.

Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a fact of life in Namibia’s communal conservancies, especially in Zambezi Region, where elephants, lions, crocodiles and hippos live in close proximity to farmers’ crops, livestock, and to people.

Communities living close to national parks suffer a great deal from wildlife while HWC cannot be eradicated as long as Namibia conserves its wildlife outside of national parks, and so the country has to somehow find a way to manage it.

In Mbanga’s case, hippos often come to graze on freshly growing maize in his area and one night in 2010, Mbanga was out checking his crop after he had lit a fire to deter the hippos from his crop.

As he was walking home, he heard a hippo breathing close by and within seconds the hippo was chasing him. He tried to zigzag through the maize field but unfortunately he fell and was attacked by the hippo.

This was after he had telephoned the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to report that hippos had been in his fields and an official was due to visit that day, but failed to turn up. So he lit a fire to deter the hippos.

The father of two lives in Isuswa village, wedged between Botswana and Zambia, and close to the Chobe River in Salambala Conservancy.

Mbanga is one of the lucky ones as many have not been so lucky and they end up losing their lives in the attacks.

Statistics provided by the MET show that between 2014 and 2016, 39 people were killed by wildlife, and 7 already this year while last year 545 cattle and over 200 goats were lost to predators.

Beginning of March, Namibia held a Conference on Human Wildlife Conflict Management to review the existing policy on HWC management.

Speaking at the conference, a researcher who is leading the Kwando Carnivore Project in Kavango and Zambezi regions, Lise Hanssen said that wildlife in the Zambezi Region moves between parks, through communal conservancies, and thus could not successfully survive without freedom to roam, which inevitably leads to conflict in the farming areas between the parks.

Wildlife is plentiful in Zambezi, partly because it is tolerated by farmers who see the benefits from tourism and trophy hunting, which for Salambala includes jobs, meat, and cash distribution.

Over 600 cattle were taken in the area between 2011 and 2016, mostly by hyenas while there were over 4,000 incidents of crop damage, mostly by elephants, which move between Botswana and Zambia, through Zambezi Region.

The MET provides financial offsets for losses through its Self-Reliance Scheme, topped up by conservancies, while 5,000 Namibian dollars (380 U.S. dollars) are provided for funeral.

Mbanga has a wife and two children to support. He still farms and has around twenty cattle. Planting maize has become increasingly hard work thus he gets around his farm on a prosthetic lower leg, which was paid for by a kind-hearted businessman who lives in the same area where Mbanga was treated.

Although the environment ministry does not compensate for injuries caused by wildlife, it did create a self-reliance scheme by giving each communal conservancy 60,000 Namibian dollars, to match with conservancy funds raised from trophy hunting and tourism, to offset crop and livestock losses to farmers.

The Salambala Conservancy pays farmers 1,500 Namibian dollars for a cow lost to predators, and gives fixed sums for crop losses, well below the market rate.

Although there is no compensation for injury, Salambala paid Mbanga 5,000 Namibian dollars to help him to recover.

Commercial farms also suffer from HWC. A representative of about 75 farms in the Kamanjab area between Etosha National Park and Kunene conservancies, Helmke von Bach said that it takes only a minute for an elephant to push over a windmill costing 80,000 Namibian dollars.

He estimated the average loss to each commercial farmer in the area annually at 375,000 Namibian dollars.

According to CEO of the Namibian Chamber of the Environment, Chris Brown, the cost of wildlife to each conservancy member in Sanitatas Conservancy, in the northwest Kunene region, amounts to 1,000 Namibian dollars per person per annum.

             

 

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