The Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Tourism (MEFT) in Namibia has finalized plans to sell over 170 wild elephants. Conservationists have criticized the auction, prompting a government response about the overwhelming population growth of Namibian elephants since the 1990s. 

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MEFT says that the number of elephants in the country has grown from 7,500 in 1995 to 24,000 today. The organization claims this growth has caused human-wildlife conflict in the country due to a strain on the available resources. Conservationists have refuted these claims, alleging that this is just an excuse to sell the animals. 

Further, conservationists say that even if a human-wildlife conflict exists, selling the animals will not solve the problem. According to Neil Greenwood, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, the government can mitigate such conflicts by working with local communities. 

“Selling elephants will not prevent human-elephant conflict,” Greenwood said in a statement. “The most effective way to mitigate the problem of conflict is by working with communities to ensure habitats are managed properly and solutions found to ensure wildlife and the people who live alongside them are protected. This has been proven time and again throughout southern Africa.”

Additionally, scientists have disputed the data provided by the government. While the government says that the current population of elephants sits at 24,000, local scientists say that between 17,265 and 20,000 elephants in the country are transboundary; this means the elephants migrate to Angola, Botswana and Zambia. As such, only about 5,688 elephants can be said to belong to Namibia. Conservationists argue that this number is way too low to justify the auction.

Compared to other African countries, Namibia’s elephant population is low. Botswana alone is home to over 130,000 elephants, even though Namibia is 40% larger than Botswana in terms of landmass area.

With this information in mind, some conservationists say that the government is falsifying numbers to sell off the elephants. According to Mark Hiley, operations director of National Park Rescue, this behavior poses a significant danger to elephants.

“Falsifying elephant population statistics and exaggerating human-wildlife conflict can be used by governments to generate revenue from inflated hunting quotas, justify sales to zoos or hunting farms, and initiate ivory-generating culls,” Hiley said. “Corruption is now as big a threat to elephants as poaching.”

Via Mongabay News

Lead image via Pixabay