A farmer in the Keetmanshoop area is at loggerheads with the environment ministry over two cheetahs that the ministry claims are state property.
Ingrid Mariana Nolte, in whose care the cheetahs have been for nearly five years, wants the High Court to review and set aside environment minister Pohamba Shifeta’s decision to reject her application for the registration of the two cheetahs known as Nika and Zandile.
Nolte claims she and her husband are animal lovers and they care for and nurture animals. She said they rescue and rehabilitate all species of wild animals and they have been caring for cheetahs since 1997.
She further said they had taken care of six cheetahs - for which the environment ministry issued permits.
They currently host four cheetahs whose permit applications are still pending with the ministry of environment.
According to Nolte, in April 2018 they received a phone call from a sheep farmer in the Helmeringhausen/Bethanien area about a cheetah den with two cubs on the farm.
She said the farmer informed them he did not want to take responsibility for the cubs. He allegedly informed them that should they fail to take them into their care he would kill them.
Nolte said they had to act as it was an emergency.
“From previous experience with the environment ministry, it takes weeks to obtain a transport permit for large carnivores, irrespective of the urgency of the situation. It is well-known throughout the wildlife and conservation community,” said Nolte.
In June 2018 she applied to have the cubs registered to their farm, Gariganus, in the Keetmanshoop district.
However, while waiting for the application to be approved, officials from the environment ministry visited the farm in September 2020 and issued her with a fine for keeping animals without a permit. She subsequently paid an admission of guilt fine.
Nolte claims Shifeta failed to properly apply his mind when he declined the application as he failed to consider that the cheetahs have been in her care for five years and have somewhat become domesticated in the interim. Thus, they cannot be released into the wild as they are vulnerable.
Her lawyer Ronél Lewies said Nolte has grown fond of the animals as they also have grown fond of her too.
“They formed a deep emotional connection, built a relationship of trust, and bonded over this five-year period. It is cruel and inhumane - towards Mrs Nolte and towards Nika and Zandile - to remove the animals from her care and euthanise them or release them in a national park, given the circumstances,” said Lewies.
Answering to the application, Shifeta said Nolte has no legal standing to institute such proceedings as she had admitted and paid a fine for illegally being in possession of the animals.
He said the moment Nolte paid the admission of guilt fine, she admitted and took responsibility of her wrongdoing.
“The applicant (Nolte) can lay no claim the lawful ownership of the animals as the applicant is unable to provide a satisfactory explanation as to the source of the animals. The animals remain state property,” said Shifeta.
He said his decision to decline the application was both reasonable and fair.
Windhoek High Court judge Collins Parker will give a ruling in the matter on 28 June.