Namibia has resorted to wildlife auctions to raise funds to save animals that are perishing in the country’s national parks due the persistent drought, the Windhoek Observer can reveal.
This comes as the country is faced with one of its worst droughts in years, which has hit the farming sector and communal farmers, resulting in government declaring it a national disaster.
Information reaching this paper shows that multitude of wild animals have succumbed to death due to the lack of grazing in some of the country’s national parks, a development confirmed by Environment minister, Pohamba Shifeta.
The minister said the situation was so dire that his ministry has started translocating some animals, a costly exercise and thus could consider regular wildlife auctions as part of fund-raising efforts to provide fodder and fund the drilling of boreholes in some of the parks.
” The impact of the drought on wildlife is very serious and we have seen kudus dying in some parks. We also need funds to drill boreholes. Capturing and transferring animals is costly and it costs us millions,” he said.
Shifeta said the country was open to animal exports as local buyers were shying away due to lack of grazing on private game farms.
“We are also interested in selling some animals and to use the funds raised to transfer other animals to different national parks. We have 20 national parks and the majority of them have no grazing left and this has forced us to sell some of the animals, but there are no local buyers because of the drought situation in the country,” he said.
“Locally no one wants to buy any wildlife because of the lack of grazing. Some locals may buy and send them to South Africa for grazing and bring them back when the situation improves, but it seems SA might also be faced with its own problems.”
The minister said the sales will also allow his ministry to control the number of animals in some game parks which have exceeded their carrying capacity.
“We have started advertising the animal sales to attract buyers that might be interested in buying to reduce the animal populations in some parks,” he said.
“The only parks that have some grazing are those in the western parts of the country except Etosha and this is on the other side of the redline and we cannot move animals to the other side, so the only solution in that case is to sell the animals.”
Quizzed if the ministry will also consider putting elephants up for sale, Shifeta said they were also under consideration.
“We are looking at different animals, such as buffalos; elands, springboks among others and also looking at exporting them. We are also considering selling elephants, especially those that are now causing problems,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia, Gitta Paetzold, said the decision taken by government was the right one, considering the country’s drought.
She, however, called for transparency on how funds raised from the wild auctions are managed.
“Given the drought we are in, it may be the most sensible and humane thing to do, sell/cull, before animals suffer terrible deaths due to the drought. Many game/guest farms are in the same predicament right now, as are cattle farmers. One just hopes that the process is transparent as wildlife is a national asset, and that funds raised are invested in wildlife /sustainability efforts,” she said.
According to the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmer's Union (NECFU), billions of dollars will be required to address the devastating impact of the drought on the country’s farming community.
In an effort to mitigate the drought impact on farmers and their animals, farmer organizations, including the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers Union (NECFU) and the private sector joined hands under the umbrella of the Dare to Care Fund which is administered by the NAU, with the aim of raising funds to support drought-stricken communal, emerging commercial and commercial farmers.
Neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe have previously auctioned off animals such as elephants as part of efforts to save the animals from the effects of drought, while raising funds to aid other wildlife.
Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, are home to the largest population of African elephants.
In the 2019/20 budget, the Environment ministry was allocated N$461 million, of which N$195 million was allocated to wildlife and protected area management while the protection and management of key species and natural habitat has been allocated N$25 million.