stop the desert elephant hunt
Six, elephant bull, trophy hunting permits have been issued between 12 conservancies in the Kunene region of Namibia. There are only approximately 20 trophy sized bulls in the entire area. Three permits out of the six are in the Southern Kunene region where there were only 5 trophy sized bulls, of which 2 have been shot. Last year 12 elephants were shot as problem animals. This actually means there are only 3 trophy sized bull left in the entire area, the sum total of which will be wiped out by the trophy licenses. There 400 elephants in the Kunene region, and issuing permits on 6 of the 20 bulls is unsustainable in a population that already showed alarming signs of high natural mortality and genetic problems due to in-breeding. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) have allocated the 3 permits on desert elephants to be shared between 6 conservancies in the Ugab/Huab area. The Purpose of this is to placate the conservancies by giving them a valuable source of income. These conservancies, controlled by the local communities, typically sell their rights on to professional hunting companies, earning on average about US$7,500 per elephant. The permits are then sold on to wealthy hunters willing to pay up to US$60 000 for the privilege of bagging such a rare trophy. The desert elephant, so called because of their physical adaptation to their arid environment, range in the dry riverbeds of southern Kunene where they feed primarily on Ana tree pods. Regarded as a keystone species in the local eco-system, they are also a key attraction in Namibia\'s estimated US$800 million tourism industry. The US$7,500 for one trophy is a pittance if compared with the potential earnings from tourism in these areas. While the desert elephants largely keep to unpopulated areas, increasing encroachment from pastoral farmers have over the past years has brought them into conflict with local communities. A man was killed late last year by an elephant which Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) said had become aggressive after elephants in the area had been previously shot at in order to drive them away. If more hunting is done in the region then the elephants could become increasingly more aggressive causing a rise in the number of these types of incidents. Killing a key tourist attraction is short-sighted and could damage Namibia\'s international reputation as a tourist destination. Ministry officials who approve these quotas are not thinking in terms of the best conservation measures for the keystone species in the Kunene Region, but are succumbing to pressure from conservancies to earn quick bucks. EHRA\'s director and elephant expert, Johannes Haasbroek commented, \"It\'s open season out there on the last of the last desert elephants\"