Analysis of records from community game guards of human-elephant conflict in Orupupa Conservancy, northwest Namibia
Keywords:human-wildlife conflict, community conservancies, Kunene, local ecological knowledge, Namibia, game guards
Competition between local people and elephants (Loxodonta africana) for water and vegetation is an increasing concern in many conservancies in northwest Namibia. Many livestock were lost during droughts in 2018-2019, and there are risks of more severe droughts in the future because of climate change. Little research has been published on elephants in the Northern Highlands, although the community game guards have been collecting data for many years in Event Books, as part of their role within conservancies. These include records of human-elephant conflict incidents. The objective of this study was to assess in detail the data on human-elephant conflict in Event Books for Orupupa Conservancy. In addition to analysis of Event Book data, consultations were carried out with community game guards in 2021 and 2022. Incidents involving elephants tend not to be frequent, but damage at water points can have a major impact on a local community because of the time taken and expenses of repairing the infrastructure. In 2019 and 2020 there was a changing dynamic in which some local communities set up vegetable gardens near water points or springs. The number of incidents of elephant damage at vegetable gardens greatly increased in 2020. Our study demonstrates that detailed analysis of Event Book data for additional conservancies would be useful. Combined with local ecological knowledge, the Event Book data can be used to inform the planning of local actions to reduce human-elephant conflict, including conservation of elephants and their habitats, in line with the actions in Namibia’s National Elephant Conservation and Management Plan. The study also confirmed the substantial knowledge of community game guards and their important work in keeping records in Event Books. The expansion of their monitoring role to identify specific elephant herds would provide benefits in terms of improving knowledge on the elephant population and movements, and the potential for early warning between villages about the more problematic herds.
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