Space for Giants

Namibia: Wildlife Gift for Cuba

by Irene !hoaës, New Era
5 July 2012

Windhoek — The Ministry of Environment and Tourism will today start capturing the first group of wild animals destined for Cuba - among them lions, elephants, rhinos and cheetahs.

The 148 animals are a donation to the Cuban government from the Namibian government. The animals, valued at N$7,5 million, were promised to the Cuban government way back in 2009, during the visit of the Cuban President Raul Castro.

The game-capture exercise will take place in the Waterberg National Park, where the animals will be kept in temporary holding enclosures until the bomas are completed and will then be translocated to Cuba at the beginning of October.

Animals earmarked for the translocation are elephant, lion, buffalo, black and white rhinos, brown hyena, spotted hyena, Cape eland, greater kudu, common impala, gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, roan antelope, leopard, porcupine, black-backed jackal, cheetah, caracal, honey badger, bat-eared fox, ostrich (red-necked), and the white-backed vulture.

The operation follows the signing of two agreements between the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, and the Cuban General Director of the National Zoological Park, Miguel Luis Abud Soto, yesterday.

The first agreement is on scientific and technological cooperation, while the second is on the facilitation of animal donations to Cuba from Namibia.

According to Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibia will foot the costs of the whole operation, starting from the capture to the translocation of the animals to Cuba. She could, however, not say what the operation will cost the Namibian taxpayer, but promised to avail the full figures in due course.

"Because it is state property, treasury authorisation has already been received," Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

The whole translocation exercise will be completed by the end of next year and all animals will be transported by air.

The ministry has invested in the building of bomas for the translocation of the animals, however some of the facilities are not yet ready.

"The bomas are used for this exercise, but they remain a national asset, since we have programmes for translocation inside the country also, where animals are translocated to conservancies from national parks," the minister explained.

The ministry also has a game scheme where upcoming farmers receive wild animals from the ministry, hence Nandi-Ndaitwah said the facilities were not only built for the Cuban translocation.

The Cuban representative said the donation is important for his country, because it will increase Cuba's wildlife population and improve the genetic pool of its animals. In Cuba, the animals will be kept in a 342-hectare national park, where they will be semi-free. Currently, the park is home to about 850 animals.

"We will try to give the animals good treatment. We will have to feed them well," Soto promised during the signing ceremony.

Namibia and Cuba have a long-standing relationship dating back to the country's independence struggle, when Cuba assisted the liberation movement Swapo.

"We have been together for many years and we will be brothers and sisters forever," the Cuban representative said.

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