Stories that inspire: Fight against the cactus

What is a Cactus?

“Cacti are succulent perennial plants native to the Americas. Hundreds of cactus species have been introduced outside their native ranges; a few of them are among the most damaging invasive plant species in the world, according to Oxford University Press. “Namibia is home to 23 invasive cactus species, which holds a threat to our environment and animals” according to Luise HOFFMANN in her article “Some of the most invasive cactus species in Namibia” published in The Namibian News – Environment | 2015-10-29

Meet Gunhild Voigts

Gunhild Voigts

Born in Mariental she is a German speaking Namibian. Growing up on a farm she knows what drought is but on the other hand what a paradise Namibia can be after some rain. The mother of two does not want to leave the threatening breakdown of Namibian vegetation to her children and therefore decided to take up the fight against those invasive cacti in the city of Windhoek. Gunhild and her husband are members of the Botanical Society. They repeatedly attended to the society´s appeal to clear the Botanic gardens from invasive alien species. This is when she realized that these efforts could not be sustainable at all while there is full coverage all around in the city.

When and how Cactus Clean-Up started?

During our interview with Gunhild we asked her, when she first decided to take action. This was her answer: “Actually it was in November 2015 when the Mayor of Windhoek Muesee Kazapua was running for re-election.. I met him in his office and told him I want him to be recognized as the best Mayor Windhoek ever had by getting Windhoek clear of waste and invasive alien species. And still I think we are the best supporters he has in town.” So far the only action of City of Windhoek had been to use chemicals to kill the opuntias at Aloe Trail. With the worry that chemicals will later find their way into the Windhoek aquifer she choose another course of action and called up for volunteers to help clear cacti by hand.

A serious threat

Mrs.Voigts observed that this cactus invasion is a serious threat to all of us alike: farmers, residents, tourists, wildlife and pets: a bird was unable to struggle free after it tried to roost on an Opuntia rosea cactus at the Avis dam,  an Oryx was unable to feed because it`s mouth was full of cactus spines, a dog was encrusted by cactus prickles to such an extent that it could not be saved by the vet, cattle are dying a prolonged and painful death on account of their stomachs becoming perforated and septic as a result of having eaten cacti during the drought, or pedestrians  have to walk on the tarmac  instead of the sidewalk encroached by cacti.


When there are donations Cactus Clean -Up tries to clear the surrounding of the donor`s home in the first place. For the tourism industry several viewpoints were cleared where the collision of Kalahari and Congo Craton with Middle ocean volcanic gap from pre Gondwana times can be observed: Aloe Trail, Uhland Heights viewpoint, Werth Single, Georges Street and Machless Belt viewpoint (entrance gravel road from the fire brigade side.)

As far as there is transport available, Citi of Windoek supports with skips. If there is  no transport available Opuntias are piled up to convert to compost and  the rest has to be transported privately to the Eros landfill site.

Why it is important?

Besides clearing Windhoek from alien invasive plants, there is another side of the medal: unemployed workers from the street side get work, some food and N$ 140,-remuneration for one day of work.

Gunhild Voigts took up the challenge because she believes we should oppose the breakdown of our vegetation before it might be irrevocably too late. Windhoek should not be the starting point for invasive alien plants to spread over the rest of Namibia and pose a threat to Namibian farming and tourism.

“Fight for your environment and do not let it go down”, Gunhild Voigts

How people can participate?

Gunhild encourages people to take action them self: “take out your rake and uproot the cacti where ever you find them. Discard them at Eros landfill site where they are covered with several meters of building rubble to prevent regrowth. Always use tools with long handles and never touch cacti with your hands, as they hurt badly.”

Or you could participate with payment of workers by donating into the account:

Cactus Clean-up , Bank Windhoek, Kudu Branch 482172, Account 8005224758 Please email name and proof of payment to Hille Schwarting.

You could join cactus workers in the field every day when there are donations available for payment.

To have more information about this campaign, please click here

Mobile:+264 81 2085747 Email address 

Written by: Jennifer Ilukena

Skeleton Coast Signboard

To our sponsors,

TOSCO Trust team installing the new rules board at Ugab Gate,
Skeleton Coast NP

After meeting with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and Dr. Philip Stander from Desert Lion Conservation in August 2018, TOSCO understood the need of organizing informative signboards in the Skeleton Coast Park, in partnership with (MET).
A TOSCO team (Charlotte Hiernard, Anna Carizzoni, Ophélie Pratx and Dorian Jornet) travelled from Windhoek to Mowe Bay between the 02nd and the 04th of March 2019 to install an informative welcome board at the Skeleton Coast Park (Park rules and general information – 1200mm * 800mm). The 9 remaining boards were delivered to the person in charge on site from MET and Dr. Philip Stander. Together they will install them at key locations.

The rest will be erected at:

  • Springbokwasser Gate
  • Ugab Gate
  • Terrace Bay
  • Torra Bay at reception/petrol station – 1000mm * 450mm
  • Hoanib mouth
  • Seal colony

We thank everyone involved in this project as it was a success.

Charlotte Hiernard – Awareness Coordinator +264 81 0320 280,

Kwando Carnivore Project Human-Lion conflict mitigation report

The Mudumu Landscape

Lise Hanssen1, Matiti Hans Fwelimbi1, Balyerwa, Dzoti, Kabulabula, Kasika, Lusese, Mashi, Nakabolelwa, Sangwali, Sobbe and Wuparo Conservancies


The Mudumu Complexes in the Zambezi Region are made up of protected areas, conservancies and community forests and lie adjacent to the Kwando River in the eastern part of the region. This area lies at the heart of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), within the Kwando Wildlife Dispersal Area (WDA), and is one of six WDAsidentified as imperative for wildlife connectivity within KAZA. The Kwando WDA is an important area for transboundary movement of many wildlife species including all of the larger carnivores, and is pivotal to the success of KAZA as a wildlife landscape, and an especially important area of connectivity of lions between Angola, Botswana and Zambia.

During 2012 and 2013, predation on cattle by lions in the conservancies of the Mudumu South Complex increased dramatically, seemingly in response to lion populations in Nkasa Rupara and Mudumu national parks reaching their ecological thresholds. In 2012/13 a total of 135 cattle were reported killed by lions, followed by 61 in 2014. In response 17 lions were killed in retaliation in late 2012/2013. One pride was particularly heavily culled, the Lupala Pride, which was 15 individuals strong in early 2012, and by the end of 2013 had been reduced to 3 individuals. By the end of 2014, only a single adult female remained of this pride leaving a vacant territory, severely impacting tourism activities in the area and causing friction between stakeholders. 

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2018 TOSCO Trust Activity Report

Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO Trust)

Tourism Supporting Conservation TOSCO Trust’ financial year has come to an end in February 2019. We are very excited to share our 2018 Activity Report with all of you.  We are proud at all the projects TOSCO Trust has been supporting and for all the accomplishments made the past year. Thank you again to all the strategic partners, members and volunteers.

To check our activity report click here:

In 2018, TOSCO Trust increased its incomes by 32% in relation with the previous year. That means we fundraised 959.869,77 NAD with 45 members. That allowed us to support different programs all around Namibia; in terms of;

• Research;

We sponsor recognized scientists who preserve species and give conservation recommendations to the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET);

• Living with Wildlife;

We support people living with wildlife outside of National Parks in order to turn this threat into an opportunity for them;

• Public Awareness;

We raise public awareness about conservation matters in order to promote responsible travel in Namibia;

• Clean Travel;

We clean visible and invisible pollution during and after our safaris, from the ground to the air. 

Conservation Programs that TOSCO Trust supported
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Desert Elephant Conservation

2018 Annual Research Report

Left Fang/Skewetand and calf in 2016. Left Fang died in April 2018 of unknown ailment, her carcass was found in November 2018 by Puros Conservancy staff.

Summary and Significance

We compiled data from our research (2006-2018) along with published accounts dating back to 1975 on the desert-dwelling elephant population in our study area of Skeleton Coast National Park and western Kunene region. This includes the Hoarusib-Hoanib, and Uniab subpopulations.

The current number of resident elephants in the Hoarusib-Hoanib subpopulation is 34 (based on exact counts of known individuals). This number is down from 2017 when there was a total of 36 elephants, because two deaths occurred in 2018. In the Uniab drainage study area, all of the elephants had gone out of the study area and into the surrounding mountains following the rains, so we were not able to observe them. The estimate from 2017 of ~50 elephants remains the most current estimate.

The total for these three study areas is ~84 elephants. By comparison, Viljoen (1987) documented 86 individuals in the same area in 1981, during the height of drought and poaching.

“The 10,000NAD received from TOSCO was well spent on the fuel that is necessary to carry out this long term research and monitoring project. Thanks again, and we look forward to continued support from TOSCO as we enter into our 15th year on this project in 2019.”

Dr. Laura Brown

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Wildlife Conservation in Namibia Art-Exhibition

 “Earth has lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 40 years, only when the last of the animal’s horns, tusks, skin and bones are sold, we will realize that money can never buy our wildlife” WWF.

TOSCO’s aim and vision is to make sure Namibia never gets to that stage, by supporting conservation projects and local people who share their land with wildlife, TOSCO Trust contributes to safeguarding Namibia’s natural assets.

Spreading the conservation message and making a difference in our society.

“Art speaks where words are unable to explain.” Thread less artist Mathiole. The 29THof October marked the first Wildlife Conservation in Namibia Art-Exhibition by the Tourism Supporting Conservation Organization (TOSCO Trust). The EXPOwas a complete success in creating awareness on Namibian spectacular wildlife, the challenges of living with wildlife and the role of the tourism in the mitigation of these conflicts.

About 500 people visited the exhibition including Ministers, Diplomates, local authorities, TOSCO members, TOSCO supporters, artist, tourists, friends and many more. There was a satisfying turnout of people as well for the kids workshop, Vanishing king outdoor screening and the Craft Market. All different activities with only one goal, to create awareness about wildlife in Namibia. A complete success.


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Clean Travel Program – Planting trees for the benefits of all

Clean Travel Program – Planting trees for the benefit of all

Travel responsibly the Namibian way

As the world is becoming more environmentally conscious in realizing the carbon impact humans have on the planet, we have a responsibility towards nature and others. Tourism is responsible for around 8% of the total global C02 emission. The good news is that the trees can clean up after us. The planting of trees offsets carbon emission and helps lessen the impact of the tourism industry on global warming.

The clean travel carbon-offsetting program sponsored by the tourism industry.

Tourism Supporting Conservation

The Clean Travel carbon offsetting program last week planted their first trees at two schools in Windhoek. The two schools who benefited from the program are Moreson Special School and Augustineum Secondary School.

The Clean Travel program is a partnership between Eloolo Permaculture Initiative and Tourism Supporting Conservation (TOSCO Trust) and the first carbon offset program in Namibia. Eloolo is a Namibian NGO engaged in education, food security and sustainability. TOSCO is a trust supporting and advocating for a sustainable and responsible tourism industry in Namibia. Together Eloolo and TOSCO are giving the tourism industry including their clients the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions through planting trees.

This year marks the maiden year of this innovative program. The first trees were sponsored by Eco Safaris Namibia (85 trees) and ASCO Car Hire (22 trees) also starting the next year with a lower price for the trees going to N$250 from N$450. ASCO Car Hire director Mrs. Mirela Kriess said in her address to the Moreson Special School  that, “It was great to be part of the Clean Travel program and to be able to contribute to the development of Moreson Special School and their learners.

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Large Carnivore Management Association

Large Carnivore Management Association Says Cheetahs Are Not Pets


WINDHOEK, Namibia (14 Sept. 2018) – The keeping of cheetahs as pets or captive animals at farms and guest/hunting lodges in Namibia appears to have increased in the past couple of years as reported by several of the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia (LCMAN) members. Cheetahs should never be taken from the wild, and the practise is illegal according the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Most captive cheetahs will inevitably be relinquished to authorities, voluntarily or involuntarily (if proper permits are not in place), and will then have to be placed with a registered organisation authorised to care for these animals. If the condition of the animal is not good, it will be destroyed.

There are a handful of organisations registered in Namibia that act as custodians for the MET and hold non-releasable cheetahs that have been confiscated. MET has strict criteria for registering large carnivore holding facilities, including animals having annual veterinary check-ups and proper enclosure structures and sizes. Additionally, large carnivores are not allowed to have free contact with people for tourism activities.

“Large carnivores, including cheetahs, do not make good pets. Cheetahs are a delicate species that can suffer from many health-related issues and require special food and care, as well as physical and mental stimulation. If they do not get this proper care, they most often get very sick”, said Dr Laurie Marker, Chair of the LCMAN, and Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

Not only is it against the law to keep a pet cheetah in Namibia, it is also detrimental to the animals. Cheetahs require very specific holding facilities and proper food (with vitamins and minerals found in a wild diet) to keep them in good health.

Continue reading “Large Carnivore Management Association”