1 February 2013

Namibia: Poachers On the Hunt in Etosha

Windhoek — Tourists to the Etosha National Park are now increasingly photographing limping wildlife that escaped the poacher's snares, right under the noses of game rangers and park officials.

According to tourists poaching may be becoming a serious threat within the wildlife sanctuary. Earlier in January tourists photographed a severely injured zebra walking around with a wire snare around its neck and entangled in its legs. The zebra was spotted in the Namutoni area, which borders the Oshikoto Region. The incident seems to have escaped the notice of the game rangers, as well as the management of the park even though the tourists claim to have reported the incident to park officials.

"There was no report of an incident this year and we do regular fence patrols," said the Director of Parks and Wildlife Management, Colgar Sikopo. He said there is "now and then such incidents, normally common along the fence on the Namutoni side". Suspicion is that people from outside the park or communities living close to the borders of the park, especially in the Namutoni area are responsible for the incidents of illegal poaching.

They cut holes in the fence of the park and place snares in the openings, which are usually well concealed and create the impression that there is a pathway for unsuspecting game. Once the animal steps through the opening, it is ensnared. "In many incidents these animals manage to disentangle themselves and move around with the wire until they are spotted," Sikopo explained. An electric fence is supposed to be erected or is in the process of being erected, to prevent the animals, especially elephants, from straying outside the park.

Yesterday, the environment ministry held a meeting with park authorities, the park's neighbours and communities living in and around the park to address the issue of illegal activities in the park. Last year a zebra and a giraffe were also found with snares dangling around their necks.

According to Sikopo, when they were informed about the zebra and the giraffe, they immediately reacted by sending out veterinarians. "Normally we dart the animals when we find them before removing the snares. We treat them and many a time, these animals survive," he said.

Amazingly Sikopo believes that both the zebra and the giraffe found last year with snares around their necks, survive until this day. However, he says that only because they have not found any carcasses belonging to the two animals. But who is to say poachers have not reached them before the game rangers? Sikopo says there may be thousands of animals moving about scarred with such deadly contrivances on their bodies and it is not possible to notice them unless you come very close to the animals.

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