New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: NDF Troops to Pursue Poachers

Rundu — The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, besieged by a recent increase in elephant poaching in the Caprivi Region, has enlisted the services of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) to track marauding poachers.

James Sambi, a game warden in the Bwabwata Game Park and other reliable sources in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, confirmed the deployment of NDF troops on a mission to capture marauding poachers.

Four people have already been arrested in connection with the poaching of elephants in the Caprivi Region after they were reportedly caught with several elephant tusks that they had obtained through illegal hunting in the region, which is teeming with wildlife. Officials in the tourism ministry recently discovered 18 elephant carcasses in the north-eastern region, killed by poachers for their precious ivory, which is in high demand in Asian countries.

The Caprivi Region is the only region where poaching is considered a serious problem, probably because it is straddled by four neighbouring countries.

In the adjacent Kavango Region the problem has not reached crisis proportions yet. At least 13 of the elephants were killed in the Mamili National Park over the past four months.

"For now the situation is not so critical, therefore there is no need to implement measures like in the Caprivi, but we can consider it if it becomes critical," Sambi told New Era concerning the NDF deployment. Speculation is that a poaching syndicate, made up mostly of Zambian and Chinese nationals who work in cahoots with Namibians, is operating in the region.

Nevertheless, Sambi says local people tend to hunt any wildlife in sight, because they do not know the endangered status of the species. "Right now there are hunting concessions for buffaloes, and hunters complain there are not enough species in the park.

This is a concern because concessions are an income-generating method for the park and it helps the communities in the area," said a worried Sambi.

Joao Muyuka (38) and Johannes Shitumbo (51), two men arrested for elephant poaching, appeared in the Rundu Magistrate's Court on four poaching-related charges last month. They are charged with being in the Bwabwata Game Park without permission, hunting protected game and being in possession of ammunition and firearms without a licence.

They were caught with an AK-47 assault rifle and a 30.8 rifle. They have also been denied bail because their case involves elephant tusks. Their next court appearance will be on December 06 at Mukwe.

Most of the poached ivory leaves Africa through the Indian Ocean seaports on the East African coastline, primarily from Kenya and Tanzania, going to China and Thailand, the two primary destinations for illegal ivory consignments.

Neighboring South Africa is also battling with an escalation in rhino poaching, with estimates of at least one rhino killed each day. With an ivory stockpile of over 30 000 kg, Namibia was recently among countries lining up to get permission from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to sell its large ivory stockpile.

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