Namibia witnessed an unprecedented population growth of elephants within a very short time. Official figures indicate a nearly threefold jump over a period of about 25 years - from about 7,500 in 1995 to 24,000 in 2019. This has led to an increase in the number of human-animal conflicts. There was a time when elephants of this African country were among a number of species that faced survival problems due to poaching, illegal wildlife trade and ecological factors.

According to CNN, they were on the verge of extinction but that trend reversed thanks to the conservation drive of Namibia that enjoyed international support.

However, the government has had a rethink on the subject. Last year, it indicated its plans to withdraw from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) when countries voted to reject certain proposals related to hunting and exporting its white rhinos. Namibia is in favor of allowing more trophy hunting and the export of live animals. The argument is that such exercises would help to generate funds for the protection of the species. In December 2016, China dealt a deathblow to the poaching of elephants by shutting down the ivory trade.

Various reasons for the sale of elephants

Namibia has put a number of wild elephants up for sale. The official reasons are drought conditions and an increase in the number of pachyderms.

They encroach into human habitation with consequent human-animal conflict. The blame lies with the humans who destroy the green cover in the name of development. They build roads, houses, and bridges to augment the infrastructure. Obviously, the animals are squeezed for space and have to struggle for survival. These end up in undesirable incidents.

In May 2019, Botswana lifted the ban on hunting elephants and it sparked international outrage. Incidentally, in some Travel destinations, there are elephant safaris and tourists can ride on the animals as they go around the bushveld.

Namibia has defined criteria for auctioning elephants

The Ministry of Environment Forestry and Tourism will be the agency to handle the auction.

The authorities are not choosy about who purchases them. They could be from Namibia or abroad but must meet certain criteria. These include the availability of quarantine facilities. The location of the elephants must also be suitably certified. Namibia has to tackle animal-related issues like some other African nations. It boils down to striking a balance between protecting high-value species while coming to terms with human-animal conflicts.

These are inevitable when humans begin to occupy areas normally meant for animals. The authorities have to do a lot of balancing because both animals and humans have unique problems. In October, Namibia put up a number of buffaloes for sale in order to ease the pressure on grazing land.

This is an obvious fallout of humans usurping land, which belongs rightly to animals. The country also auctioned off many animals in 2019 when it faced its worst drought in a century.

Selling the elephants is a better option than shooting them

Namibia plans to sell a large number of live elephants to check the upward trend in their numbers. The drought conditions and territorial conflict with humans are also factors that influenced the decision. This country in Africa is sparsely populated and semi-arid and the population of the animals is in the region of 28,000 as per official estimates.

Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta told a section of The Jakarta Post that the government supported the policy of selling them following criticism for shooting elephants to control overpopulation.

His words are: "We decided -– after research -– to sell them instead." The sale would be of herds inclusive of infants or juveniles – that will preserve the important social structure in elephant communities. In February 2016, Zimbabwe justified the sale of live elephants to China.