Desert dwelling elephants continue to roam the spectacular area of the Namib and Damaraland and the bordering commercial farms in the remote north west of Namibia, as they have done for centuries. Today, the elephant's range is constantly being decreased by encroaching human settlement - from western communal Damaraland as well as the commercial ranches on the east. The land is arid and harsh – not ideal for farming at the best of times. Some of the previous land-owners shot every animal in sight to make biltong (air dried meat).
Generous donations by individuals financed the purchase and installation of two solar pumps at waterholes. In June 1998 the Huab Conservation Trust was able to finance the purchase of 10 giraffes and 8 ostriches thanks to the generosity and involvement of the many visitors to Huab Lodge. Since then these animals have dispersed, as the nature reserve is not game-fenced. The intention of reintroducing game is not to fence it in and manage it for a selected few, but to assist nature in restocking itself.
So while the giraffes and ostriches are not restricted to the reserve area they are in its vicinity, covering the vast tracts of land they require. This holistic approach is unusual and meeting with increasing approval, even if it makes game drives much more difficult.
Huab Safari Ranches is an amalgamation of farmland between the commercial and communal farmers. In 1992 when the project leaders first came across this part of the Huab Valley on the edge of Namibia's Damaraland and learned of the plight of the desert elephants, they founded a private nature reserve as a buffer zone for the elephants in particular, and wild animals in general, between the conflicting farming interests. The ephemeral Huab River which runs through the 20 thousand acre nature reserve has natural water sources which attract wild life. The once severely overgrazed farmland has been completely given over to wildlife and is returning to pristine condition. Anti-erosion measures such as raised half-moon contours decrease the speed of flowing rain water as well as, and the filling of erosion channels are methods which work to regenerate the land. The indigenous flora can proliferate and provide food and refuge for the wildlife, birds, insects and reptiles. The last two decades of care and a strict hands-off and no-shooting policy have brought about remarkable changes. The numbers of such species as kudu, oryx and mountain zebra are growing and the new generations are approachable.
However, in order to re-establish the natural balance of fauna, it is necessary to reintroduce indigenous animals such as giraffe, springbok and ostrich, as all these species succumbed to the guns. Others are now returning of their own account. As the vegetation is no longer over-utilised by excessive domestic stock, the wild animals are drawn to the better grazing and can drink in peace from waterholes which no longer have barbed wire fences around them. They have been made "game-friendly" with drinking saucers enabling good vision rather than the original walled cattle troughs.
Animals that can now be observed in increasing numbers include Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, a feisty, small zebra with a quaint, birdlike trill. Their ability to camouflage has to be seen to be believed! Large herds of oryx cross the plains or climb the stony hills as sure-footedly as mountain goats! A dainty steenbok may leap from its shady place or if you are lucky you could even see a common duiker. You may get good views of klipspringer on the granite outcrops. The best sight remains that of the majestic desert elephant. He comes and goes as he pleases unrestricted by fences. Plentiful water and food keep him travelling up and down the dry river, where he sometimes finds company with a breeding herd of elephants or other lone bulls.