New Era (Windhoek)

19 April 2012

Namibia: Rhino Strays From Its Habitat

Photo: The Namibian
Namibia Elephant

Windhoek — A female rhino by the name 'Elizabeth' from the Khoadi//hôas Conservancy in the Kunene Region has strayed from home and was spotted in the nearby communal farms.

According to sources, the rhino - an unusual sight compared to elephants which are a much more familiar sight in the area - has unleashed widespread panic among residents in the area.

"The rhino was running around in the road, chasing after cars and even people," a resident of the area said. According to a source, wind normally makes rhinos to lose direction and that must have been the case with this specific rhino.

The straying 'Elizabeth' was one of several rhinos that were relocated to communal conservancies three years ago. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has sent a team to recapture the rhino and its calf and to return the pair to the conservancy, but it was unable to trace them.

After the team left, the rhino was spotted among cattle on a farm in the area. Staffers from the MET are at the farm guarding the rhino 24 hours, until it is relocated to its home.

The Deputy Director of Wildlife Management, Colgar Sikopo, confirmed the incident, saying that the plan is to relocate the rhino as soon as possible. Rhino poaching has become a problem in the region, especially in South Africa, where hundreds of rhinos are killed for their horns every year.

Namibia has not experienced the resurgence in poaching, but the Government is being proactive and is bolstering security and intelligence work. The country has had to develop an equally complex multi-tiered approach that includes local, national and international anti-poaching activities.

Activities cover on the ground monitoring and patrols, supplemented by extensive intelligence networks amongst rural communities. They are backed by traditional law enforcement; active monitoring of the movement of goods and persons; the use of the latest law-enforcement technology; closer co-operation with the legal system, as well as comprehensive databases that are linked internationally.

As part of the pro-active approach, in response to the poaching in neighbouring countries, the ministry recently held an intensive 'Rhino and Elephant Security Workshop' supported by the African Rhino Programme, World Wildlife Fund - Namibia, the Integrated Community-Based Ecosystem Management (ICEMA) and the Strengthening the Protected Area Network (SPAN).

Highly experienced rhino and elephant security experts were brought in from neighbouring countries to share their experience and intelligence information with Namibians.

Most importantly, the involvement of community conservation in Namibia plays a positive role in protecting rhinos from 'would be' poachers, because locals have claimed ownership and are protecting the animals from which they benefit.

Stiffer sentences such as 20 years imprisonment was introduced shortly after independence for protected species such as rhinos and elephants.

In order to strengthen the monitoring measures, MET staff received training in tracking and law enforcement; weapons handling and crime scene investigation.

The endangered animals are also fitted with electronic transmitters to alert authorities should an animal be dormant or disappear for a few hours.

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