By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Survival along the Ugab River is only for the fittest. The fittest in this case are jumbos that force community members to seek refuge in the mountains on cold winter nights. The communities say they are living in fear of elephants that are a threat to their lives and time and again destroy their infrastructure. They say the problem is of such an urgent nature that they plan on meeting the Minister of Environment and Tourism and the President to find a lasting solution. "We have spoken to the authorities at regional level and last week we met the governor. But now we think we should meet the minister and the President to discuss our problems," said Fabianus Uaseuapuani, councillor in the Zeraua Traditional Authority. He said the elephants destroy their water infrastructure, damage things at their homesteads and also chase livestock herders. When the problem gets worse, some people leave their homes and sleep in the mountains, said the councillor. One woman at whom an elephant charged recently is still recuperating in hospital, said Uaseuapuani. The woman survived by running to the mountains. Last year, an official of the ministry was killed while three or four years back a child was maimed when an elephant injured him. The villages mostly affected are in the Daures Constituency. Ministry officials agree this is a long-standing problem, which they attribute to competition for scarce resources along the river. "The Ugab River is the only green place this time (of the year) where both the people and elephants want to live," said Chief Control Warden: Erongo Regional Services in the ministry, Simukusi Cletius Maketo. The river is the only source of grazing and water especially in the dry season. He told New Era yesterday the ministry has had several meetings with communities to try and resolve the problem, but that the animals keep coming back to the river. "We now and then send our people to chase them out of the river but they return to look for water and food," he added. Maketo said although the communities want the elephants to be shot, the jumbos were protected animals and besides benefit members of communal area conservancies. The communities have been told not to walk around at night, to respect the elephants by not cha-sing them away and also by building elephants their own water points that are far from human activity. The elephant population in that area is about 30, said Maketo. The ministry has produced pamphlets explaining how the communities can co-exist with the elephants and has embarked on a joint venture project with communities to build enclosures for water points. In addition to these, Maketo said a meeting is scheduled between the environment officials and the Daures Constituency councillor to discuss some of the issues facing his constituency.
2008-07-10 00:00:00 10 years ago