The Namibian (Windhoek)

11 June 2012

Namibia: No Orphan Elephants Exported to Mexico

Recent international media reports about nine young orphaned elephants having been exported to Mexico are inaccurate and defamatory, the Minister of Environment and Tourism said on Friday.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah told the media that the inaccurate reporting has damaged the conservation authority of Namibia and called on both the Namibian seller and the Mexican buyer of the elephants to remedy the situation.

"These animals were never on a rescue mission. The government regards this export of nine young elephants as a private financial transaction, with the seller residing in Namibia and the buyer in Mexico. The import was sanctioned by the appropriate Mexican authorities," she stressed.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said the group of elephants consisted of three males and six females, ranging from four to ten years old.

International news agency Reuters reported on Wednesday that nine 'orphaned' elephants from Namibia had found a new home in Mexico's acclaimed Africam Safari Zoo, located in Puebla.

It said the elephants had been housed in a temporary shelter in Namibia after their parents were killed by ivory hunters.

Nandi-Ndaitwah explained that the elephants originated from Farm Eden in the northern part of the Otjozondjupa Region.

The founding stock of these elephants was bought by the then-owner from the Kruger National Park in South Africa and on auction from the Etosha National Park in Namibia.

The two transactions took place during the 1980s.

The elephants which were exported to Mexico are the third generation of elephants from Farm Eden.

She said last year, the nine elephants in question were sold by Farm Eden to Namib Game Services that belongs to Herbert Henle in a private commercial transaction.

In September that same year, Namib Game Services captured the nine elephants under a permit issued by the ministry, and translocated them to a temporary holding facility on Farm Paresis, near Otjiwarongo, where they stayed until the time of their export.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said there has never been any report of elephant poaching on Farm Eden.

Only three problem elephant bulls were trophy-hunted on this property since the initial introduction in the 1980s, which has had no detrimental effect on the elephants' social structures.

"As a result, in no way can this export be considered to be a rescue mission, nor were these elephants orphans. These young elephants were in good condition at the time of leaving Namibia, and were not at risk of being destroyed by this ministry," the minister stressed.

"The elephants were tranquillised so that they could be lifted into crates and transported to the Hosea Kutako International Airport, where a Boeing 777-F of Land Cargo in the US transported them to Mexico.

They were not orphans and were in a good condition," Henle told The Namibian earlier.

In accordance with Article III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in May 2012, Mexico issued an import permit for these elephants to Africam, represented by its Director Frank Camacho.

Namibia issued an export permit based on the Mexican import permit.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said the ministry will continue, in co-operation with the Namibian Police and in collaboration with communities and farmers, to prevent poaching in Namibia.

- Nampa and own reporter

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