An iconic desert-dwelling elephant named Voortrekker, beloved by many in southern Africa, has been killed by a trophy hunter in Namibia, it was confirmed by Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) on Sunday evening.
There has been an outpouring of absolute heartbreak and outrage at the news by conservationists.
Johannes Haasbroek who worked at EHRA for many years, said the iconic bull had been “murdered” by a trophy hunter on Tuesday morning.
“He was the last large dominant bull amongst the 120 desert dwelling elephant left in the North West deserts of Namibia. Targeted not for anything but his fame. For some rich bastard to claim the last,” said a devastated Haasbroek.
He alleged that for years the hunting outfitters conspired to get the gentle giant declared a problem to justify a hunt.
“He never stepped out of line,” Haasbroek wrote on Facebook. “I lived and fought and cried for that gentleman. I have no words anymore. Let the planet die now. With him. All that is left for me is to watch and weep. See you in a better world my friend. This one was not meant for us. I failed you.”
EHRA said this evening: “It is with great sadness and huge disappointment that we confirm that Voortrekker, the Ugab main breeding bull has been shot.
“Only a few years ago it would have been incomprehensible that the conservancies would have chosen to value the life of an elephant as long as there was a financial benefit…
“We stand behind the conservancies that we assist, in their objection to this hunt and commit to provide our unwavering support of their conservation aims.
“Every member of the EHRA family feels devastated by this news. We remember Voortrekker as an incredibly gentle, peaceful and magnificent elephant. His presence has often calmed other inexperienced elephants around him. He was known locally as the ‘Old Man’, that was always welcome because he never caused any problems or induced fear. We will greatly miss this special and iconic animal.”
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation said yesterday that an urgent letter addressed to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Namibia from neighbouring conservancies “shows that a flagrant error was made when the hunting licence was issued”.
There had been complaints from communities about a herd that had been bothering them, but Voortrekker was not part of that herd, said the Foundation.
Namibian Tourism issued a statement acknowledging the concerns but claimed Voortrekker “was put down after it was declared a problem”.
The Ministry said efforts to resolve the elephant/human conflict (with upgraded water infrastructure for instance) had not adequately helped.
“Even after such efforts by the Ministry, people continued to suffer losses as a result of these elephants. Against this background, this bull was declared problem causing animal to be destroyed through trophy hunting to generate funds for the affected communities to recuperate their losses they suffered.
“We are aware of claims that certain Conservancies objected to the hunt. The communities who objected to the hunt were not affected by the elephants as the elephants were mainly causing problems in the Omatjete area.
“Given the nature and the magnitude of the the damages caused by the elephants, we had no other option than to unfortunately put down the elephant.”
In a message an hour ago, Haasbrek said Voortrekker’s “brutal departure left a hole in my soul. We have been friends for 20 years. More of a gentleman than most humans I know.”
Voortrekker before he broke his tusk. His brutal departure left a hole in my soul. We have been friends for 20 years. More of a gentleman than most humans I know