Conserving Namibia’s Desert Elephants
Namibia’s unique and rare desert-adapted elephants are decreasing. Drought has forced elephants closer to humans, often onto commercial lands, causing human-elephant conflict, property damage, and financial losses. Communities and farmers in Namibia’s arid northwest region face severe threats from human-elephant conflict resulting in resentment, hostility, and threats to the desert elephants who share the landscape. There is a serious need for habitat connectivity, securing migration routes to allow elephants to safely move to find resources without encountering human communities. A thorough study of the elephant population size, composition, behavior, and vulnerability using camera traps, patrols, and direct observation is being conducted and then used to identify and secure corridors and buffer zones for safe elephant movement. Water points are also being provided along migration routes to encourage elephants to stay on communal lands instead of commercial farms. To prevent further decline in elephant numbers, people who live alongside elephants are being taught how to avoid conflicts and trained ‘Elephant Guards’ will help in this quest. With the goal of reducing HEC, PEACE (People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing) Conflict Mitigation Courses and training are being offered teaching safe defense strategies and conflict mitigation. School children and teachers are also receiving conservation-based education programs.
By implementing elephant-focused education, conflict mitigation workshops, community empowerment through employing Elephant Guards, collecting elephant identification information, helping stakeholders identify and protect elephant corridors, and working toward an Early Warning System, both elephants and people will be safer and able to peacefully coexist in this landscape.