THE Erindi Game Reserve's hopes to import 200 elephants from South Africa could soon be a reality.
Without revealing much, this was hinted by Erindi co-owner Paul Joubert when he told The Namibian yesterday:
"It seems like we are reaching a deal with the government but I have no news yet". Joubert said he will be able to shed more light on the matter in a month's time.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism in December last year rejected the game reserve's application to import 200 elephants from South Africa.
Instead, the ministry at the time offered to lease no more than 50 elephants from the Tsumkwe area to Erindi. The ministry said should Erindi accept the terms, the lease could be reassessed after five years.
Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah would not divulge what the price for the lease of the elephants would be.
The same option to lease the elephants was turned down by Erindi three years ago.
Instead, Erindi requested to import 200 elephants from a South African game reserve, which they claim had offered the elephants free of charge.
Gert Joubert, the other owner, last year told The Namibian that Erindi had been negotiating to acquire elephants for the game reserve for more than six years.
The environment ministry in 2009 introduced a ban on the importation of various wildlife species into Namibia, and in the past had used the ban as the reason Erindi was not given the go-ahead to import elephants.
Erindi is said to currently house fewer than 20 elephants on 71 000 hectares. One of the reasons Erindi has provided for wanting the elephants is that the "sustainability of Erindi as a game reserve is seriously being hampered as a result of the absence of viable numbers of elephant". According to Erindi, another key reason for wanting the elephants is to help reduce bush encroachment.
"Elephants, due to their feeding and moving patterns, will provide an ongoing solution to combat bush encroachment - a prevailing problem at Erindi."
In their application to the environment ministry, Erindi said they want to introduce 200 elephants over a reasonable period of time, allowing the herd to grow to about 400 elephants over a period of more than 15 years.
The Namibian understands that Nandi-Ndaitwah recently made a submission to Cabinet to charge Erindi an annual lease amount of N$70 000 for a maximum of 200 elephants for a period of 15 years. The Namibian could not get comment from Nandi-Ndaitwah.