Namibia: Dordabis Farmers Count the Costs After Devastating Fire

Namibia: Dordabis Farmers Count the CostsAfter Devastating Fire

26 July 2006

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THE owner of the fire-ravaged Kowas game farm in the Dordabis area says he will not apply for a special permit to relocate his game, as was suggested by Government this week.

A veld fire destroyed about 5 500 hectares of grazing on the farm of Danie Strauss over the weekend.

Strauss told The Namibian yesterday that a private veterinarian had advised him that the animals were already stressed and in shock and relocating them would only worsen the situation.

“What I really want to concentrate on now is to ensure the survival of the animals that are still alive,” said Strauss, who has owned the farm for 16 years.

He said a number of farmers had offered him grass to sustain his stock, and he would suspend trophy hunting on the farm until the next rainy season.

According to Strauss, it is not possible to estimate how many animals were lost in the veld fire, or the financial cost of the disaster.

He stocks zebra, kudu, gemsbok and springbok on the farm, which forms part of the Dordabis Conservancy.

This week, the Director of Parks and Wildlife Management, Ben Beytell, was quoted by a local daily as saying that farmers such as Strauss could apply for special permits for relocating their game to other farms until the grazing had recovered.

Sixteen farms – covering more than 40 000 hectares – fell victim to the massive veld fire, but Kowas was the worst affected, according to Strauss.

The other farms include Farm Neuhof, Guxab and Doornpoort.

At Doornpoort, at least four head of cattle burnt to death, while 500 sheep were reported to have died at another nearby farm.

An unknown number of black wildebeest, red wildebeest, springbok and gemsbok perished in the fire.

Strauss, who is also the President of the Namibia Trophy Hunting Association (Napha), believes that many of his animals managed to escape the fire by crossing the fence, but on other farms game-proof fencing meant a death sentence for trapped wildlife.

The owner of Farm Neuhof, Volker Rugheimer, told The Namibian yesterday that the fire was caused by a piece of smouldering carbon that fell from the exhaust pipe of a road grader that was grading fire-breaks on his farm on Thursday.

“It fell three metres away from the grader and ignited a flame that spread to the whole area,” said Rugheimer.

He said he had three people following the grader to make sure that the grader blade did not knock sparks off rocks that could start a fire.

According to Rugheimer, his workers did their best but the fire raged out of control because of a strong southerly wind.

He dismissed media reports that the fire was caused by his workers.

Rugheimer said he found out later that the same grader had earlier caused a fire at another farm.

Absalom Shigwedha


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