There’s been an uproar in Namibia over the country’s capture and auction of 57 elephants worth R5.9 million (about N$5.9 million).
In a statement, the country’s ministry of environment, forestry and tourism said the elephants were successfully sold on an auction and now authorities are charged with their capture.
“The ministry is currently busy with the capturing of the 57 elephants that were successfully sold on the auction. A total of 37 elephants have already been captured, consisting of 15 to remain in Namibia and 22 to be exported to a destination to be announced at the end of the tender process,” the office said in a statement.
It’s been speculated that the elephants were sold to China, but the government has denied that the animals were bought by Chinese dealers.
“We want to deny allegations that there are elephants designated for China,” the government said.
One of the identified buyers was the local Naankuse Foundation Wildlife Sanctuary which bought 15 of the wild animals that are in the Omatjete and Erongo regions.
The ministry said it was yet to capture at least 20 of the elephants because it awaits permits from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the receiving country.
However, a campaign has since been launched on Change.org, a petition website, against the sale of the elephants. The petition, which had over 7 100 digital signatures by 14:00 on Monday, was started by a group based in Germany called Pragmatic Alternatives to Trophy Hunting.
The Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife charity which has also taken an interest in the well-being of the animals, claims buyers from a country in the Middle East are purchasing the remaining elephants.
The petition is targetting the upcoming 74th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Lyon, France.
“The legitimacy of the capture and the proposed export from Namibia and import into the United Arab Emirates is currently being debated. The CITES Standing Committee has been requested to make their position public at the 74th meeting in Lyon in France between 7 to 11 March 2022.
“Concerned elephant experts, scientists, and academics have called for a halt to the export of these elephants and have asked for these elephants to be returned to the wild as a matter of urgency,” reads the petition.
Born Free, which claims in its petition that a total of 170 elephant could be auctioned in Namibia, said, “… the capture of wild elephants for sale to zoos condemns the animals to a lifetime of suffering”.
The Namibian government said the auction was necessary to protect the environment and reduce confrontations between humans and the elephants.
“With this auction, we intend to reduce elephant numbers in specified areas to minimise human-elephant conflicts which have become persistent, leading to extensive damages to properties, life losses, and disruption of people’s livelihoods,” the government said.
But Born Free’s head of policy Mark Jones added, “While doing nothing to address claimed ‘overpopulation’’ the captures will also disrupt fragile populations from which these elephants have been taken, which could have serious consequences for their future, and could even make conflict between elephants and people more likely.”
Namibia’s elephant population jumped from around 7 500 in 1995 to 24 000 in 2019, according to government figures.