12 February 2013

Namibia: Ministry Investigates Kavango Crocodile Shooting

THE Ministry of Environment and Tourism is investigating the circumstances that led to a crocodile being shot by border police, and then being butchered by unknown community members, in the Okavango Region at the end of last month.

According to Mark Paxton, chairman of the Kavango Open Africa Route (KOAR), who obtained information informally from a senior MET officer, Wilibald Mukena, the crocodile, believed to be about four metres long, was allegedly killing a goat on the riverbank in the Kayova Lodge area when border police shot it. The border post is about a kilometre from where the incident took place. The crocodile's head and tail were allegedly cut off and the rest of the body was left to drift downstream.

KOAR considers the shooting of the crocodile as illegal, and says the fact that it had killed a goat was no justification for shooting it. According to Paxton, cattle, goats and horses - and even dogs - are often found on the riverbank, and are sometimes caught and eaten by crocodiles.

The crocodile population, although not large, is considered healthy, in the Okavango River.

"I've been a nature conservation officer with the ministry myself and involved with law enforcement most of my life. I am fully aware of the ordinance and under what circumstances and by whom a crocodile may be destroyed," Paxton said, adding that unless the law has changed, a special permit has to be issued for shooting a crocodile.

"KOAR is trying to generate a good working relationship with the ministry and also trying to prevent these irregular and apparently illegal activities," he said.

He informed the ministry's Kavango chief control warden, Everisto Nghilai, about the incident, and demanded an investigation.

Nghilai confirmed KOAR's call for an investigation.

"We are aware of this and we have launched an investigation into the matter. I am expecting a full incident report soon in which we will be able to explain the circumstances that led to the shooting. At the moment I can't say much," he told The Namibian.

He did say, however, that it was understood that a goat was being killed and said the question was whether a farmer's cattle were being threatened by the crocodile.

"Whether a crocodile can be shot for killing a goat depends on the circumstances. Was the goat just there or did the crocodile threaten the livestock?" he said.

Crocodiles are apparently on the CITES list of protected animals, and according to Paxton it is worrying that locals and police are now apparently taking the law into their own hands and destroying animals on the river "when they think the situation warrants it".

"It is also of concern to KOAR that ministry officials allow this to happen without any follow-up actions. This sets a very dangerous precedent here and needs to be dealt with before it gets out of hand," he said.

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