No more hunting of desert elephants in Namibia

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Ministry of Environment and Tourism Namibia (MET) Hon. Minister Pohamba Shifeta

No hunting of iconic desert elephants in Namibia

Hon. Minister Pohamba Shifeta,
Hon. Permanent Secretary Dr. Malan Lindeque

Namibias desert elephants are iconic – and they are highly endangered. These animals are among the rarest creatures on this planet and have adapted to extremely arid desert conditions. But unfortunately their extraordinary status makes them a preferred target of trophy hunters. And even though they are survival experts – against the rifles of hunters even desert elephants don’t stand a chance.

We are horrified that the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has sold three more permits for the hunting of desert elephant bulls in the Ugab Region. The small population in that area is on the brink of extinction as it is. In 2016, the number of elephants left in the Ugab river region was reported as being down to 30, the population declining drastically year by year. A shocking five out of five newborn calves died, three adult females were lost. The total number of breeding bulls in the Ugab river region amounted to five. [1]

So how can it be sustainable to kill three bulls out of five? Especially since we were under the impression that desert elephants  have been designated as top priority for protection by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The loss of mature and experienced bulls is likely to further jeopardize the survival of the whole population. As is shown in a study published in Science Daily in 2016, desert elephants pass on their knowledge and survival skills to future generations. „Their knowledge of how to live in the desert is crucial to the survival of future generations of elephants in the arid habitat, and pressure from hunting and climate change may only increase in the coming decades“. [2]

In this light we find it utterly shocking that the few remaining desert elephants are killed off at an alarming rate – and also under highly questionable circumstances. According to an anonymous eye witness a young bull that had been declared a “problem animal” was shot recently by the wife of a professional hunter and died in agony:  “(The animal) was shot by the Wife of the hunting outfit and not the sanctioned (by MET) PH himself. She went for a heart shot, it did not work, so she and hubby, the PH immobilized it by BOTH shooting at the spine, so that she could finish it off with FIVE more head shots”. This procedure is said to have been carried out in the presence of MET representatives.

 In our opinion, trophy hunting is a thing of the past. Taking the lives of highly intelligent and socially sophisticated animals for a thrill can no longer be an acceptable pastime. Even more so, where a very special and small population like the world-famous desert adapted elephants is concerned. These elephants are cherished and admired by wildlife-lovers worldwide. They also represent a major attraction in Namibia.

We request you urgently to stop all hunting of desert elephants and withdraw hunting permits, should they have already been issued.  We also call on you to employ more effective strategies for peaceful co-existence between humans and elephants, as has been successfully done in other places. [3]

[1] http://www.desertelephant.org/elephant-conservation-volunteer/annual-reports.html
[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160803161607.htm
[3] https://conservationaction.co.za/media-articles/namibias-desert-elephants-back-butchers-block/

Photo credit: Larry Laverty

 

 



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