By: Annakleta Haikera
The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has cautioned communities living along the rivers in the north and northeastern regions, and the general public, not to take risks against their lives.
The caution comes amidst a recent number of human-wildlife conflicts where residents from the communities, particularly from the Kavango East and West regions, have lost their lives as they go to the rivers, for which most of them, is their only way to access water.
The most recent incident was that of 11-year-old Mathilde Muhuli from Shikoro village, in the Kavango East, who was killed by a crocodile while fetching water from the river on 1 April.
It was further reported that a man who was passing by in a canoe tried to rescue the victim by trying to chase the crocodile away to let go of the victim, but this was too late as the victim had already died.
The Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda stated that the incident is unfortunate and concerning to the ministry, especially since a young girl had to lose her life in this manner.
“This is definitely not the intent for our conservation efforts.”
Muyunda also urged parents and community leaders living along the rivers in these regions to keep children from swimming or bathing in the rivers.
He said the ministry cannot afford to lose more people from these dangerous predators.
“We understand that communities draw resources from rivers for their livelihoods, however, we encourage people to do so safely by taking necessary precautions at all times.” He added that children should not be allowed to collect water by themselves but rather be under the supervision of an elderly person.
“We strongly discourage conducting activities such as washing in or at close proximity with the rivers.
He said the Ministry is always giving out instructions, information and rendering the needed services to communities staying along the rivers to enhance their safety.
“The Ministry’s policies have provisions for identification and destruction of crocodiles or other animals that threaten people’s livelihoods and properties,” he said.
He further stated the Ministry is currently working on innovative preventative measures such as the setting up of crocodile enclosures, water provision, as well as to maximise the benefits of conservation to ensure that the benefits outweigh the cost.