Iconic Namibian elephant ‘Voortrekker’ killed by trophy hunter

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’s most famous bull known as Voortrekker (“Pioneer”) to thousands of tourists was shot last week by a trophy hunter, ten years after he first escaped the hunter’s bullet.

The elephant was shot on a “problem elephant “permit, however it appears that this was false, as a letter from three communal conservancies opposing the hunt sent to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) earlier in the week shows.

Picture: Christin Winter

“We understand that complaints have been received from communities living in the Omatjete area. The Ugab west population of desert elephants do not cross into those communities,” wrote a group calling itself the Ugab Concerned Conservancies to MET deputy-director Christoph Munwela.

“It is not correct that elephants from areas outside of the zone of complaints are shot,” they noted, warning that frightened elephants posed a far greater threat to their local communities.

“These elephants are our resources, and we object to them being hunted for problems caused by different populations of elephants,” the people of Otjimboyo, Sorris Sorris and Tsiseb conservancies protested.

So why hunt out the most famous and last dominant bull, ignoring the massive negative publicity that would result?

MET PRO Romeo Muyanda said “It was shot to generate funds for the affected communities. We had the elephant hunted as a trophy….”.

So it appears that the life of a magnificent elephant, worth an incalculable amount as a tourist attraction was sacrificed for a mere N$120 000, much of which will go to the Professional hunter and in licence fees to MET, with little trickling down to the communities, and that to the wrong communities.

He was, except in reputation, no longer a trophy, having broken one of his tusks off years ago.

With little or no real rainfall since 2014 and national elections looming later this year, the elephants appear to be paying the price and in Voortrekkers case, twice.

Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA), an NGO that helps manage elephant-human conflict in the area, in 2008 had raised U$12,000 to buy the tag for Voortrekker as a ‘live trophy’ from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET),

Voortrekkers’ docile nature has likely made him the most-often photographed elephant in Namibia – and his death as problem elephant an especially poignant one.

Officially, the desert-adapted elephant herd that roams between the ephemeral river systems of the north-west are considered an anomalous population that, in the MET’s opinion, do not belong there.

They are also regarded as a major management headache – and declaring them problem animals and having them shot has historically been the official preferred method of dealing with them.

Historically, by the early 1980s, they had all disappeared from the area, shot out by and for sport by former apartheid-era Cabinet Ministers – and of course cattle farmers intent on driving them off their land and back into the .

Voortrekker, however, was the pioneer who first started frequenting the area again in in the late 1980s, and later led a larger Etosha break-out group into the Brandberg and Ugab river areas where they eventually settled in.

Although there were initial conflicts between the local rural farmers and Voortrekker’s herd, they had become a permanent feature and unique tourist attraction.

A geologist who often works in the area and knew the two herds said he suspected the smaller herd, aggressive and frightened by farmers at them, may be the real cause of the Omatjete constituency’s complaints that led to Voortrekker’s death warrant being issued.

The writing appears to be on the wall for this small group of hardy survivors: there are now only 26 animals left, and of the three bulls left in the Ugab River, Voortrekker was one only two breeding bulls. All nine calves born since 2014 had died within a week, a sign of a distressed population.

So, how did Voortrekker suddenly become a problem animal – and then a trophy bull – after 30 years? That part remained an official mystery.

This article was first published by iol.co.za on 1 July 2019.


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Renee Jeanine Ragno

#cullourspecies of the scum, cowards, sadists who prey on the innocent, helpless ensuring they’ll never prey again

Barb Miller


Frankj Barrachina
Frankj Barrachina

Something is so wrong with what is happening to the decimation of Africa’s iconic wildlife. I suppose that one day many of these countries will end up like Haiti- shitholes! Humanity is screwed thanks to greed, stupidity, and the need by the richest people to exploit everything!

Ann Wardle

Robbed of his life. Robbed from his family and herd, robbed from the gene pool (an exquisite specimen), robbed from the ecosystem and environment, and robbed from the rest of us, who would have loved to come see him. However, won’t need to book that trip, now, or ever. How shameful that this was allowed to happen to him, as the revenue from visitors who come to see the wildlife is reportedly much greater that than of trophy hunting. Killing them means there is no reason to visit…lost tourist $$$ revenue.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

If you want to hunt build a time machine and go back to the Stone Age, sorry sucka losers

Tonia Vassila

Καταραμένος νά είσαι τιποτένιε, τί σού έφταιξε, δέν ανήκε σέ σένα αλλά σέ όλους εμάς, τώρα επιθυμούμε τόν δικό σου θάνατο γιά νά μή ξανακάνεις τό ίδιο σέ άλλο αθώο πλάσμα.

Dianne Dulat

Sickening. Makes one feel I’ll seeing such a beautiful specimen in his environment and being shot down by merciless imbecilic people, once there are no more then what will the Government do, twiddle their thumbs, they cannot see into the future, very sad, furthermore, elephants help to regenerate the Earth, so who will do this when nothing is left.