Namibia: Roaming Elephant Back At Swakopmund

12 February 2020

The elephant bull that surprised holiday-makers at Swakopmund on Christmas Eve returned to the town over the weekend.

Hopes were that the bull, with the distinctive torn left ear, estimated to be about 25 years old, would return inland towards the Omaruru district on Sunday, but by Monday, it was still in the Swakop River near the Rossmund Golf Club, which also has a large number of fairly tame springboks that now and then trim the greens and freeways.

"The decision is to let it [elephant] stay there and monitor it, perhaps it will do well there [at the coast]. There is sufficient vegetation to feed on and water to drink," said environment public relations officer Romeo Muyunda on Monday. Muyunda appealed to the public to stay away from the area to allow the elephant to settle in, and not to provoke it.

On 24 December, the bull walked down the Omaruru River and found itself close to Swakopmund's built-up area near the salt pans and attracting much attention.

Following colloboration between the environment ministry, the Swakopmund municipality, the police, the neighbourhood watch and Elephant Humans Relations Aid, the elephant was redirected to the inland, where it eventually settled in the Omaruru River, somewhere between Uis and Spitzkoppe.

The environment ministry also used the opportunity last month to collar the bull and test its health.

The radio collar allows for wardens to monitor its movement.

But on the weekend, footprints in the sands and broken palm leaves at Rossmund indicated the animal was back at the coast - to everyone's surprise. In fact, it was making its way toward Long Beach between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, and once again had to be redirected to the inland, but this time it decided to stay amongst the fauna within the Swakop River bed.

Why the elephant comes back to the coast remains a question. Muyunda said a week after the elephant was collared, it made numerous attempts to leave the Omaruru River, making its way towards Henties Bay, and each time the environment ministry officials drove him back to the river.

The animal is suspected to have come either from the Tsumkwe area or from the Bwabwata National Park in the Kavango East region.

"The elephant has been peaceful up to now and it's our intention to assist this elephant to find a home. We will monitor him continuously and react as the situation dictates. For now the elephant is home," said Muyunda.

Rossmund Golf Club manager Gert Cloete, who is also a resident at Rossmund Golf Estate, told The Namibian yesterday that time will tell as to how the relationship between the elephant and the golfers and residents plays out.

"This is unchartered territory for both him (the elephant) and us, so we will have to wait and see," Cloete said.

He said Rossmund and the river were basically an oasis, and therefore there should be enough food and water for the animal.

Hopes are that the elephant stays in the river area to avoid conflict with the public, and could come onto the golf course at night when there is no one.

"On one hand it must be nice for the course, seeing we have springboks here too, but we will have to take it as it comes," he said.

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