Govt regards wildlife as more precious than humans – Kaujova

KAMANJAB Sesfontein constituency councillor, Julius Kaujova, feels the life of wildlife in Namibia is being regarded as more precious than that of human beings.

Kaujova, who was concerned about lions threatening humans or attacking livestock on a weekly basis, particularly in the Kunene Region where every week lions attack livestock or threaten humans, said: We respect the life of wildlife, such as lions, more than that of people and livestock.

Africat Foundation and Desert Lion were the two non-governmental organisations roasted by Kaujova for only protecting the lions.

They only value the lives of lions. What about those of wildlife killed by them. Kaujova wants the donor-funded organisations to establish a fund to compensate communities who lose their livestock to lions in drought-stricken Kunene.

The two groups were also blasted for not engaging political and traditional leaders, who feel left out from making input at workshops held by these organisations.

According to the constituency councillor, the non-governmental organisations must know that communities blame government when problems arise and not them. Although non-governmental organisations do assist communities with night reflectors and nets to shade kraals to keep lions at bay, the assistance is too little as only a few households are receiving such help.

Despite evidence suggesting that keeping livestock in the kraal is safe, Kaujova said dozens of livestock have been attacked while in the kraal.

A while ago a Purros Campsite employee, Sarafina Tjipombo, was nearly attacked by a lioness and a cub while on duty at a tourist establishment.

Tjipompo is said to have been moving to another room in the rocky area and ran to a tent and locked herself up after she saw the lioness and her cub. The lions were nearby the room she went to clean but luckily this woman saw them first and ran inside and locked herself, Kaujova narrated.

The cub was, however, seem circling the room Tjipompo locked herself in and Purros conservancy staff was alerted to chase the lioness and her cub. Kaujova says such incidents are evidence that human life is at risk and that three people were attacked and injured by lions in the past two years.

According to Kaujova, areas such as Purros, Sesfontein, Marinus, Khowarib, Grootberg Lodge and its surroundings are 'hotspots'. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism was blasted for not having a sub-office at Sesfontein. At the moment, the ministries office at Outjo, which is situated 256 kilometres away.

Government had a programme through conservancies whereby community members who lost their livestock were paid N$200 for goats devoured by lions and N$1,500 for cattle killed by lions, but Kaujova says this amount is too little and it cannot even buy a calf.

The Chief Public Relations Officer in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Romeo Muyundu says the National Human Wildlife Conflict Policy is currently been reviewed to provide for improved amounts under a Self-Reliance Scheme and that the policy has already gone through Cabinet and it has been referred to the National Assembly for further consideration.

We are in the process of identifying these specific lions to put in place mechanisms that will ensure that they do not cause further problems or damage in the future. Furthermore, with our development partners, we are engaged in an activity to identify lion problem hot spot areas to assist in erecting predator proof kraals and water points for wildlife such as lions and elephants, Muyundu said.

The ministry of environment continues to work closely with farmers and communities to minimise incidents of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) in the entire country, not only in the Kunene Region, he said.

All of this is in addition to what we have been doing already, swift response to reports, translocation and destruction of problem animals. It should be noted that HWC cannot be eliminated completely for as long as we continue to co-exist with wildlife, but can be managed and reduced, he stressed.

We reiterate our call that communities and farmers should on their own put in place measures to mitigate human wildlife conflict. These include kraaling their livestock at night and herding livestock whenever they go for grazing. We also encourage them to work closely with our officials in the region to mitigate HWC, Muyundu said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia