Desert dwelling elephants are found in only two places in Africa, the first is in Namibia, and the second is in Mali. The elephants in Namibia are mostly found up north in the Kunene region and are a Namibian Safari attraction.
The hard work that has gone into the preservation and conservation of these majestic and intelligent animals, has translated into millions of dollars’ worth of tourism for the Namibian people.
Desert elephants have naturally had to adapt to their environments to survive the water strapped environment of a desert. These elephants are smaller than their counterparts, with longer legs and the quite charming appearance of having very big feet compared to their water rich cousins.
They travel for long distances to get to water points, and go days without any water, surviving on vegetation rich in moisture as they wait for the next water point.
They also travel in smaller groups than other elephants in Africa, keeping their groups to just 3 or 4 to minimise the impact on their environment and competition for water.
Elephants are not easy neighbours and there can be high conflict between humans and elephants when they need to share resources. Elephants consume a lot of water and also tend to destroy water infrastructure like windmills, pipes and pumps to get to the water.
They also destroy vegetation and break fences, letting livestock wander free. Largely because of this, in the early 1990’s the elephant population of Namibia had dwindled down to only 300 or so.
Fortunately nature conservation organisations with the help of the Namibian government began to reverse this trend. A number of fairly simple conservation techniques have been put in place with great results.
One such organisation is the Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA). One of their initiatives was to build large strong and elephant-proof concrete walls around human water supplies and infrastructure, so that elephants do not threaten the community’s water access. They have also mapped the movements and behaviour of elephant groups so communities can prepare for them.
After independence in 1990 most of Namibia’s wildlife was at risk. Today, thanks to forward looking policies and strong emphasis on community involvement and ownership this is not the case.
Namibia’s wildlife population and natural resources are thriving. This Southern Africa country is a shining example to the rest of the world on the importance of involving the entire population in conservation and finding solutions where both the animals and the humans win.
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