About 57 508 people across the world have signed a petition for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to stop the hunting of desert elephants in Namibia.
Iris Koch from Esslingen, Germany, started the online petition on Change.org website.
She stipulated in the petition that Namibia’s desert elephants are iconic and highly endangered.
“These animals are among the rarest creatures on this planet, and have adapted to extremely arid desert conditions. Unfortunately, their extraordinary status makes them a preferred target for trophy hunters, and even though they are survival experts, desert elephants don’t stand a chance against the rifles of hunters,” she stated.
She added: “We are horrified that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has sold three more permits for the hunting of desert elephant bulls in the Ugab region [sic].”
Koch said the small population in that area is on the brink of extinction, adding that the elephants left in the Ugab area in 2016 had gone down to 30, declining drastically year by year.
“A shocking five out of five newborn calves died, three adult females were lost, while the total number of breeding bulls in the Ugab river region amounted to five.
“We were under the impression that desert elephants have been designated as a top priority for protection by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)”, she noted.
She further stated that the loss of mature and experienced bulls is likely to further jeopardise the survival of the whole population, as is shown in a study published in Science Daily in 2016, that desert elephants pass on their knowledge and survival skills to future generations.
“Their knowledge of how to live in the desert is crucial to the survival of future generations of elephants in the arid habitat, and pressure from hunting and climate change may only increase in the coming decades,” she said.
“In my opinion, trophy hunting is a thing of the past. Taking the lives of highly intelligent and socially sophisticated animals for a thrill can no longer be an acceptable pastime”, she noted, adding that the elephants are a major attraction in Namibia.
In the petition, Koch requested that the ministry urgently stops all hunting of desert elephants, and withdraws any hunting permits that have already been issued.
The ministry’s chief public relations officer, Romeo Muyunda, yesterday acknowledged the petition.
“We are attending to the details of the petition; we have a meeting to discuss the issues with the petitioners. But we are going to engage the petitioners; and hope to find an amicable solution and clarify the issues,” he said. Muyunda stated that some issues in the petition were exaggerated and filled with misconceptions.
He disputed the figures highlighted in the petition, and said there were no permits given for hunting elephants in the Ugab area, so it would not be possible for hunting activities to happen there.