International concern mounts as the Namibian government put 170 wild elephants up for sale, justified by false population statistics and disputed claims of ‘human-elephant-conflict’. Many of the elephants being captured for sale are members of transnational migratory herds, and as such, the auction is being seen by conservationists as a serious crime-against nature.
Still recovering from a corruption scandal exposed by Al Jazeera, resulting in the imprisonment of the Ministers of Justice and Fisheries, international concern is mounting over the government’s latest scheme.
- Auction deadline: Friday 29th January 2021
- A petition condemning the sale has just passed 100,000 signatures
- Conservationists dispute Namibian government claims of ‘Too Many Elephants’
- Many of elephants being sold are transnational and only ‘passing through’ Namibia
- Map of Elephant-Capture Areas released (attached)
- Selection of quotes for articles (below)
- Overview: Last elephants under siege by governments
Elephants are now extinct in 29 African countries and those trying to survive in the last corners of the continent are under increasing threat from the ongoing explosion of human populations, poaching and the greed of African governments. Around 95% of Africa’s elephants have been slaughtered in 100 years and 10% of survivors are killed annually. Many elephants, including some of those being targeted by the Namibian government, are transnational herds, still making their massive migrations across countries, as they have for thousands of years. Conservationists argue that they do not belong to any one country for their exploitation or slaughter.
- 3% of Namibia’s last elephants ‘for sale’
The Namibian Government (NGov) claim they have “too many” elephants, but the population is officially just 23,736 compared to their smaller neighbour, Botswana’s 130,000. However: conservationists estimate that between 17,265 (73%) and 20,000 (84%) are trans-boundary migratory elephants which move between Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Botswana, leaving an actual resident population estimate of just 5,688 (170 elephants is 3%)
- Population data corrupted
NGov controversially refused to take part in the Africa-wide ‘Great Elephant Survey’ of 2016, keeping their actual population numbers secret. Exaggerating population statistics and ‘Human Wildlife Conflict’ (HWC) helps governments create a range of revenue-generating initiatives including high hunting quotas, sales to zoos and hunting farms, and ivory-generating culls. The elephants NGov is trying to sell are actually in rapid decline and, in just one incident, over 30 elephant carcasses were spotted in Nov 2020 along the Linyati River. Adding to the suspicion of corruption is that no mention of the sale, or ‘problem elephants’, was made at the recent Namibian Elephant Management Plan meeting, according to conservationists. (See links G & H). Contact
Journo John Grobler in Namibia re stats.
- Conservationists ignored
Conservationists had already proposed solutions to any human-elephant conflict between farmers and elephants, including elephant water points away from villages, electric fencing and elephant corridors, all of which avoid the need for sale or translocation. NGov claim they were not aware of the proposals (See link H)
- One of the online petitions just passed 100,000 signatures
- Many of the targeted elephants are only there temporarily
Many of the elephants being targeted by the government are present in some of the lowest elephant- population areas in Namibia, some the highest percentages of trans-boundary elephants in the country. The government is denying requests to share a 2019 aerial survey alleged to contain
population information, which may have been provided by WWF Namibia (note that WWF Namibia are ‘pro-consumption’ and have promoted hunting schemes and backed 3 major ivory stockpile-sales to the Far East which many attribute to the current market-demand for ivory). Trans-boundary elephant herds are only passing through.
- Political elites control the land, seized from indigenous people
90 of the 170 elephants to be captured are on former indigenous San ancestral lands, which were seized and distributed to political elites, who have already sold logging rights to the Chinese, who have completely decimated the endangered African rosewoods. (See Link: A and H)
- Two Namibian Ministers in Prison
One year ago Al-Jazeera ran a corruption investigation leading to the imprisonment of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Fisheries, with new evidence potentially leading to more arrests (see Link F).
- Minister of Environment selling ivory stockpile
NGov’s Environment Minister insists they will sell their ivory stockpile, despite international laws. In December 2020 an NGov official stated they’d tried but failed to gain international permission to sell off their huge 50 tonne ivory stockpile, potentially to the Far East. In 2009 the government sold 10 tonnes of ivory (See Link H)
a. Why might this be happening?
a) The public auction may be a public-show to help justify an already planned ‘cull’ of these elephants, with hunts sold to hunters under the country’s ‘Damage Causing Animals’ classification, and ivory sold to hunters or added to the hoped-for sale of their ivory stockpile.
b) NGov may have already lined up an illegal sale and the Human-Wildlife-Conflict claims and auction, are an attempt to legitimise the sale (possible buyers include Mexican-millionaire-owned Erindi.com and Russian Billionaire hunter, Rashid Sardarov. See Link E).
c) It may be a move to bolster votes from elephant-hating farmers in the regions where support for ruling party SWAPO is poor.
d) It may be the paid-for clearing of land for wealthy/powerful cattle farming groups or oil companies (see Link D).
e) A partial sale of elephants may be part of another international zoo deal. Although non-African sales are illegal under CITES rules, there is suspicion that wildlife may be ‘laundered’ through Democratic Republic of Congo (the tender mentions international permits). NGov have sold wild animals to zoos in the past (See Links: B & C)
Given that many of the elephants being captured for sale are transnational migratory herds, the use of unsubstantiated population statistics, the unsubstantiated claims of human-wildlife-conflict, and the failure to engage with conservationists able to mitigate human-wildlife-conflict, the auction is being seen by conservationists as a serious crime-against nature. Exposing the sale makes it harder for government to carry out any corruption and focuses an international light on potential corruption.
Past media links relevant to story:
A. NGov’s forest destruction: https://www.namibian.com.na/186354/archive-read/Timber-exports-to-China-escalate
B. NGov’s international wildlife sales: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america19254272#:~:text=The%20National%20Zoological%20Park%20in,been%20dubbed%20Noah’s%20Ark%20II
C. NGov’s sale of elephants https://www.namibian.com.na/194140/archive-read/Export-of-elephants-under-review
D. NGov trying to sell to oil companies: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/12/alarm-as-exploratory-drilling-
JNdNi6Qe4zAMv-20SPSSQM and https://www.namibian.com.na/97845/read/Canadians-to-consult-on-
E. Russian hunter buys farms in Namibia: https://www.namibian.com.na/182402/archive-read/Russian-buys-
F. NGov’s Ministerial corruption scandal: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/1/exclusive-corruption-
G. NGov’s exploitation of wildlife and manipulation of stats: https://conservationaction.co.za/media-articles/
H. John Grobler’s All-Africa article (see Contact section): https://allafrica.com/stories/202012100297.html
⁃ Stephen Scholvin (Namibian conservationist/Prof Guide): +264 81 236 3838 (whatsapp)
⁃ John Grobler (prominent Namibian environmental journalist): +264 81 240 1587 (whatsapp)
⁃ Izak Smit, Namibian conservationist +264 81 6094460 (whatsapp)
⁃ Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue +44 7855 755 450
⁃ Dr Niall McCann, National Park Rescue +44 7817 112620
⁃ Minister of Environment, Forestry & Tourism: Hon. Pohamba Shifeta +264 61 284 2335
⁃ Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism Spokesman, Romeo Muyunda:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org +264 61 284 2840
⁃ Dept National Parks: +264 61 284 2518
⁃ Mary Rice, Environmental Investigations Agency: +44 7810 640532
⁃ Denise Dresner, Action for Elephants: +44 7769 703744 (on US time: whatsapp)
⁃ Screenshot of Tender document issued by Namibian Government
⁃ Image of Namibian Desert Elephants (credit: Stephan Scholvin)
⁃ Image of Namibian elephants close up (credit: Stephan Scholvin)
⁃ Image of Namibian elephant herd in Etosha National Park (credit: Stephan Scholvin)
⁃ Map of areas where elephants being captured (credit: www.nationalparkrescue.org)
NEW QUOTES FOR USE
ON NAMIBIA’S AUCTION
“For thousands of years matriarch elephants have leading their herds across multiple countries on huge migrations each year. Although we’ve slaughtered 95% of all elephants in 100 years, the last of these great herds still carry out their epic journeys. These international elephants don’t ‘belong’ to anyone and Namibia’s proposal to capture and exploit them is rightly being seen as a crime against nature”. Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue
“It’s important to understand who benefits from the sale of these elephants. I would suggest that creating a mosaic landscape in which humans and elephants can both thrive is a far preferable strategy than selling unwanted
elephants to the highest bidder” Dr Niall McCann, National Park Rescue
“Most of these elephants are currently on former indigenous San ancestral lands, which were seized and distributed to political elites, who have already sold logging rights to the Chinese, who have completely decimated them”
Stephan Scholvin, Namibian professional guide and conservationist.
“The Namibian government have been falsifying their elephant population stats for years, refusing to take part in official censuses, using unscientific algorithms, and deliberately counting trans-boundary migratory elephant herds in their local calculations. Their official statistics show 23,736 elephants, but the figure is probably closer to 5,600.
Compare this to their smaller neighbour, Botswana, which has 130,000 elephants, and you can see the claims of overpopulation are ridiculous” Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue
“Falsifying elephant population statistics and exaggerating ‘Human Wildlife Conflict’ (HWC) can be used by governments to generate revenue from inflated hunting quotas, justify sales to zoos or hunting farms, and initiate
ivory-generating culls. Corruption is now as big a threat to elephants as poaching” Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue
“Conservationists here in Namibia have proven solutions to the government’s claimed human-wildlife-conflict – including moving water points away from villages and electric fencing – but the government are ignoring them all.
Despite their claims, it’s clear that their plans are about money not wildlife” Stephan Scholvin, Namibian professional guide and conservationist.
“History shows that successful conservation depends on partnerships between governments and the conservation community. When, as in Namibia, officials disconnect, ignore professional advice and start exploiting endangered wildlife, an international outcry is inevitable” Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue
“Elephants are now extinct in 29 African countries and those trying to survive in the last corners of the continent are under increasing threat from the ongoing explosion of human populations, poaching and the greed of African governments. Around 95% of Africa’s elephants have been slaughtered in 100 years and 10% of survivors are killed annually‘ Mark Hiley, National Park Rescue
“It is vital that conservation decisions are taken using the best available science. Conservation isn’t a trivial or niche topic, it is fundamental to our ability to thrive as a species, and as COVID-19 has demonstrated, making poor conservation decisions can lead to very serious unforeseen consequences” Dr Niall McCann, National Park Rescue
“There is an inherent problem in how to coexist with – or manage – species that naturally migrate across imaginary human boundaries such as international borders. From fishing rights to migratory birds to transboundary elephants, the problem remains the same: who should be allowed to exploit these animals?” Dr Niall McCann, National Park Rescue
“We need to stop viewing wildlife through the lens of immediate cash return and learn to understand the value of wildlife that is a living and breathing part of a functioning environment. Wildlife, including elephants, deliver tangible benefits to people in terms of ecosystem services, which will collapse if biodiversity collapses. Wildlife also delivers huge intangible benefits in terms of cultural identity and personal wellbeing; a land without wildlife is poorer in so many ways” Mary Rice, Environment Investigations Agency (EIA)