Namibia gets its 'most famous elephant' killed by trophy hunter to 'generate funds' for communities who felt threatened by it
Namibian authorities have shot a 50-year alpha bull elephant because it "caused damages to property in the area".
The elephant, known as Voortrekker, which translates into Afrikaans as "pioneer" was shot and killed by hunters last week in the Omatjete area. The hunters were appointed by the government and paid 120,000 Namibian dollars, approximately $847. The deceased animal was part of the rare Ugab desert-adapted herd. The incident has caused a huge uproar in the country with conservation and tourism groups who believe that the government has taken the step without sufficient cause.
"It's unfortunate that the elephant was put down but we were left with no other alternative after this specific animal continued to cause damages to property in the area," Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) spokesman Romeo Muyunda told Reuters on Tuesday. He added that had they not gone ahead with the killing, the farmers living in the area had threatened to take the matter into their own hands. "It was better for us to do it this way than to ignore it, and allow the community to take the law into their own hands and destroy all the elephants," he said.
He added that the elephant was shot to generate funds for the villages. "It was shot to generate funds for the affected communities. We had the elephant hunted as a trophy."
Muyunda also told The Namibian that it was unfortunate that an elephant was killed, but it was justified by the fact that it was a 'problem animal'.
He said Omatjete has seen many human-wildlife conflict incidents involving elephants, which have destroyed houses, water infrastructure, and even killed people and livestock. Muyunda mentioned that the ministry had spent N$4 million during the year building separate waterholes for elephants in an attempt to lure them away from the communities. Some of this infrastructure was also destroyed recently, he said.
Justifying the price paid for the killing he said the N$20 000 would go to the Game Products Trust Fund, while the rest (N$100 000) would be paid to the conservancy to restore infrastructure damaged by the elephant.
However, according to those working in conservation, they say that the elephants do not barge into the communities in the area. "We understand that complaints have been received from communities living in the Omatjete area. The Ugab west population of desert elephants do not cross into those communities," the Ugab Concerned Conservancies said. "These elephants are our resources, and we object to them being hunted for problems caused by different populations of elephants," the group said.
The elephant, save only in reputation, was no longer a trophy as he had had his tusks broken in his earlier years and was even bought back by the Elephant-Human Relations Aid from the MET to save it from being shot as a "live trophy". In 2008, the NGO, that works to manage the elephant-human conflict in the area had raised U$12,000 to save the elephant but now it seems to be in vain. The most photographed elephant in the country, the patriarch of the elephant herd had been said to have been a docile animal.