Conservation co-operation spares Ugab elephants life
Press Release by Johannes Haasbroek, Elephant-Human Relations Aid
11th November, 2008
Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) realized that one of this years three trophy hunting permits issued for elephants in the western Kunene regions, which was to be shared by two conservancies, Sorris-Sorris and Otjimboyo which border the Ugab River, have only one resident breeding bull large enough to be regarded as a trophy.
This bull is locally known as Voortrekker and is a well-known character in the area around the Ugab wetlands. Voortrekker is regarded as the founding father of the Ugab elephant herds, as he led the four residential herds there around ten years ago.
Younger nomadic bulls do also visit this area, but none of them are of breeding age yet, with the eldest one, a bull called Longshanks, still about eight to ten years too young for the cows to allow him to breed. The loss of Voortrekker would have been a heavy blow for the resident cows, and a sad loss as a tourist attraction for the area and the surrounding community.
On the other hand, EHRA is also fully aware that the two concerned conservancies are both in desperate need of the sort of income that a trophy hunt can generate, and have so far seen little to no benefits arising from tolerating elephants in the area.
After consulting with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), and with the full support of Mr. Ben Beytell, Director of Wildlife and Parks, EHRA decided to make an offer to the two conservancies to financially compensate them if they would waiver their rights to this trophy.
Both conservancies showed the same concern upon realizing the situation at hand, and the effect it could have on the future of the Ugab elephants, if the only breeding bull is to be hunted. The conservancies decided to sign a memorandum of agreement with EHRA to waiver their rights to the trophy, based on an offer from EHRA to financially compensate the conservancies for their loss of income and the meat they would have received.
The conservancies already had a contract signed with a professional hunter, Mr. Hentie van Heerden, who had a client booked for the hunt. Mr. van Heerden agreed that it would not be feasible or sustainable to shoot a bull in the Ugab, and graciously decided to not use the permit, sending it back to the MET permit office as unused. The MET helped Mr. van Heerden find an unused trophy hunting permit in another area of the country where there was a specific problem elephant bull, to honour his contract with his client.
Last month EHRA launched a fundraising trek through the desert in order to raise the money required to buy the trophy. Ten women from the UK, US, Ireland and Canada signed up, and walked 130km through Damaraland over five days. They raised a total of N$140 000 in their plight. This money will be divided between the Sorris-Sorris and Otjimboyo conservancies. N$60 000 each for the fee they would have earned from the trophy hunt, and N$10 000 each in the form of game meat for the community members, instead of the elephant meat they would have received.
EHRA would like to thank the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, especially Mr. Beytell, the Professional Hunter, Mr. van Heerden, and the communities of Sorris-Sorris and Otjimboyo for their commitment to the sustainable conservation of such an important species. This case has proved that through a deep understanding of the situation on the ground, and personal dialog between concerned parties, effective conservation decisions can be made.
EHRA, and the diverse communities of the Ugab River, would also like to extend their sincere gratitude to the 10 matriarchs from all over the world that rose to the challenge, and bought the life of Voortrekker.
Elephant-Human Relations Aid
Article at the following link: http://www.desertelephant.org/news.php