By Theresia Tjihenuna
Government has hit out at an international article being circulated on the internet, alleging secret trading of elephants for votes.
In a statement yesterday, Ministry of Environment and Tourism permanent secretary Simeon Negumbo rebutted accusations that Namibia's 'desert elephants' were facing extinction because Swapo was trading their meat for political gain in the Okaoko and Damara communities.
Negumbo described the accusations as "inaccurate and false assumptions", and urged the public and the international community to ignore them.
According to the article dated 23 May 2014, and titled 'Do Not Allow Trading the Lives of Rare Desert Elephants for Political Votes in Namibia' by Ally McCreedy that was published in the CNN iReport, the number of desert elephants in the country is declining at a fast pace.
"This time though, not through poaching, but gross environmental mismanagement. The current government of Namibia has always insisted that there is no problem with the rapidly vanishing elephants. Their accepted figures reflect that there are approximately more than 300 wild desert elephants left," says McCreedy.
She further alleges that conservationists estimate this number to be not more than 100 now. "Of these 100 elephants, it is estimated that only about 18 are mature bulls. And this is where the problem comes in," reads McCreedy's article.
Negumbo said there was no such thing as 'desert elephants'. "The elephants in Kunene region are being referred to as desert elephants because of their adaptation of living in the desert conditions and for tourism attractions. They are the same species of elephants which occur elsewhere in the country and scientifically known as Loxodonta Africana,"said Negumbo.
He also said that elephants are classified as specially protected game under Namibian law, and that elephants in Namibia are no longer considered an endangered species, but rather potentially valuable.
"The current conservation status of elephants in Namibia is more than satisfactory, their numbers already exceed what many would consider desirable for the available habitat and they have been identified as a possible threat to other rare and valuable species which Namibia is trying to conserve. There are no limiting factors preventing an increase in elephant numbers in Namibia," he said.
He said the country has more elephants today than it had 100 years ago. "Namibia's elephant population, and the Kunene population in particular, is a healthy and growing population growing at about 3,3% per year."
Negumbo said there were some non-governmental organisations and individuals who were working against the wildlife conservation activities of government and sustainable utilisation of wildlife resources by rural communities through the conservancy programme.
He said this has negative implications for the country's community based natural resource management programme.
"We have become recognised as a leader in this field and have restored the link between conservation and rural development by enabling communal area farmers to derive a direct income from the sustainable use of wildlife and tourism activities," he said.
Negumbo said these NGOs and individuals have no research permits on elephants in the Kunene or elsewhere in the country.
"Neither do they have operating agreements with government on their activities. Any work being done on elephant status in the region by these NGOs and individuals is illegal and cannot be relied on. I urge them to refrain from this irresponsible behaviour before action is taken against them," he warned.