By Jana-Mari Smith
The affable Elephant which was spotted in Hochfeld more than a week ago, is still safe. Reports have also been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) that a second elephant is making its way in the same area, though MET officials said that they are still verifying this information.
JUST IN - A farmer in the Omitara region has confirmed he spotted the elephant on his farm. This would indicate that the elephant continues to head southwards, according to those in the area.
Last week, a handful of farmers in the Hochfeld area described their surprise and delight when they discovered a bull elephant making its way across an expanse of commercial and game farms in the Hochfeld area. Christiane Thiessen, from Otjimbuku Guestfarm, and her family and employees were thrilled with the unexpected visit. Photos and their testimony showed that the elephant was relaxed around his human admirers and that he was extremely careful when negotiating their low-lying fences.
However, as the news of the non-aggressive elephant’s journey spread, several people voiced their worry that the elephant was bound to “inevitably” destroy property – be it game fences (which are higher than normal fences and can thus not withstand an elephants cross-over, however careful and gentle) and water installations.
This could lead to the animal being declared a problem animal which would lead to it being killed by a farmer or Ministry officials.
The alternative, to trans-locate the elephant to a safer area where human wildlife conflict will be minimised, is a costly option that could falter at the threshold of the MET’s constrained budgets.
Already, on Friday and Saturday, word got round that several game farmers in the area were concerned about the pachyderms presence, and that they worried their game, such as rhinos, would escape from their properties if the elephant destroyed their fences.
On Monday, Colgar Sikopo, head of the Directorate of Regional Services and Parks Managment, downplayed these fears. Although the Ministry has received one complaint from a farmer, whose game fence had been destroyed by the old bull, Sikopo said the damage was minimal. Sikopo said that thus far, the Ministry has no intention of interfering with the bull’s relatively peaceful and non-destructive journey in the area.
“We have had reports from one farm that it (the bull) moved through that farm and damaged the game fence. But my team inspected it and there was only minor damage”. Sikopo said that while the elephant was present on commercial and game farms, it was still in the wild and the Ministry sees no problem with that, for now.
“The elephant is in the bush, although its on a farm. This animal is in the wild. We are just closely monitoring it”.
Sikopo added that there is to date no indication where the animal, or animals, have come from. He said it could be from the Nyae or Tsumkwe in the north-east, or “maybe even Etosha”.
Last week, a spokesperson from Erindi Game Reserve said that it was not an elephant of theirs. He said that the Erindi elephants are photographically documented, and comparisons to their database confirmed it was not an Erindi elephant.
For now, the direction the elephant is moving in remains blurry, as their are conflicting reports that it is moving north and south.