WINDHOEK - The Namibian government last week launched the rehabilitation of the Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s largest animal sanctuaries, in a bid to cut down poaching and reduce human-wildlife conflict problems.
Despite being one of Namibia’s prime tourist destinations, Etosha National Park has been haunted by poaching by both locals as well as other suspects from Angola and Zambia.
Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, said the move was taken to safeguard the lives of the villagers living in the vicinity of the national park as well as reduce illegal access to the national park by poachers.
Shifeta said the Namibian government also took over the rehabilitation of a boundary fence of the national park which has a diameter of about 800 kilometres to save the government from spending more than necessary through using middle men.
“So far we have covered about 140 kilometres of the boundary fence for about N$10 million which is far less than what government would have used had we gone to tender. The rehabilitation is being done by our staff on a voluntary basis with the help of the friends of the park who are contributing in kind,” he said.
Shifeta also said as part of the Namibian government’s quest to improve the lives of the locals living in conservancies around the national park, they were pushing for a deliberate policy where proceeds of trophy hunting in this area would be utilised to build infrastructure including schools, hospitals and public roads.
“Our push is that we do not give the community money as this could benefit few people like bar owners while the society suffers hence the need to use the proceeds of practices such as trophy hunting to improve the livelihoods of Namibians through better infrastructure,” he said.
Shifeta said at the current rate, the Namibian government was spending around N$100 000 per kilometre compared to N$750 000 per kilometre charged by independent companies. He said the move to rehabilitate Etosha National Park through government employees had saved the country billions of dollars.
“We call upon all Namibians to contribute in any way they can to this cause and we are also open to non-Namibians who can contribute whatever they can to the completion of this project. The idea is to complete this project within the next three years or before. Our national park is by far one of the largest in Africa and has a diameter that is even bigger than some countries,” he said.
Etosha National Park situated in the northern part of the country and covers four regions of Oshana, Omusati, Oshikoto as well as Ohangwena and has some of the continent’s rare species such as the black rhino.
In recent months, the park has experience a challenge where predators like lions escaped from the park and invaded settlements around the national park to the detriment of villagers surrounding the national park.