Katutura residents say small animals damage graves

20 Dec 2015 14:00pm


Katutura residents have raised concern over the increased presence of yellow mongooses and ground squirrels in the Katutura Cemetery as they say the animals damage the graves. Both the ground squirrel and yellow mongoose, sometimes referred to as the red meerkat, tend to live in underground burrow systems. This leads to graves being destroyed and tombstones and parts of the graves sometimes sinking into the ground. Willem Nauiseb, a resident of Usakos who came to Windhoek to erect a tombstone at his late mother-in-law's grave, told Nampa on Friday these animals cause extensive damage to structures that have been put up with care. "They destroy the graves. We fear that they might dig deep enough to reach the remains in the coffin," he said. Nauiseb's wife, who asked not to be named, said it is a huge loss for family members. "It's a loss especially for those living outside Windhoek who cannot come to the cemetery on a weekly basis to tend the graves. Worst of all, these animals are part of the environment in the city and can't be controlled," she complained. Also at the gravesite was a builder who helped the concerned family erect the tombstone. The builder, who also would not disclose his name to Nampa, said the mongooses and ground squirrels give the builders a bad name. "When it rains after the animals have dug their burrows around the grave, the tombstone structure sinks, leaving the builder with a bad image as the family members who hired us for the job think that we have erected a structure of inferior quality," he said. Approached for comment, the chairperson of the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS), John Pallet however said people need not fear that the animals will disturb the remains of those buried in the cemetery. "I highly doubt that they will eat the flesh on human remains because the size of their claws does not allow them to dig through a coffin," he said. He explained that yellow mongooses, which co-exist with ground squirrels, are predominantly species of open grasslands, scrubs and arid dry savannahs. "The fact that graves are generally heaps of soil makes them attractive to these animals. These animals avoid hard and rocky areas according to their habitat and as such would rather choose to dig their burrows through or around a grave for shelter," he said. Pallet said the rise in population of these animals around Windhoek is largely owing to the fact that jackals, large snakes and birds of prey - which are the main predators of the yellow mongoose and the ground squirrels - do not frequent the city. (NAMPA) GH/CT/AS