14 February 2013

Namibia: Illegal Wildlife Poaching At Tsiseb Conservancy

WHILE there is no conclusive evidence of illegal poaching, members of the Tsiseb constituency in the Erongo Region say wildlife in the area is being decimated by unscrupulous elements.

The Tsiseb conservancy covers an area of 8 083 square kilometres from the Omaruru River to the Ugab River in the Erongo Region, with its western part bordering the Dorob National Park.

In the distant past there were elephant and black rhino, but in the last number of years, the most prominent animals in the area are springbok, steenbok, kudu and oryx.

Speaking from the conservancy office at Uis last week, the vice chairperson of the conservancy committee, Sagarias Seibeb, told The Namibian that wildlife has either been nearly wiped out, or has disappeared deep into the impenetrable desert, fleeing from indiscriminate illegal poaching.

"It is clear as daylight that the number of animals are dropping," said Seibeb. "We do not have assured numbers of animals to invite people to the conservancy proudly."

Seibeb, a police officer at Uis, said many of the suspected poachers come from the coastal areas and from some areas in central Namibia.

Adding insult to injury, he said there were claims that even conservancy committee members have been found to have hunted illegally.

However, he was quick to add that there has so far been scant evidence of poaching, saying what is being observed are tracks and traces of illegal hunting in the area.

This sentiment was echoed by Ministry of Environment and Tourism wildlife management deputy director Colgar Silkopo, who said he is only aware of one reported case in which one springbok was poached.

Recently, two cases were reported where two steenbok and one springbok were poached in a neighbouring conservancy. One person was held accountable for both cases.

Sikopo also urged members of the public to distinguish between illegal poaching and permitted trophy hunting.

The head office of the ministry receives a monthly report from its rangers in the field. According to sources at Uis, one of these rangers is the only one fighting against illegal poaching as conservancy management systems have reportedly fallen flat.

Seibeb was frank in his criticism of the former Tsiseb conservancy committee and secretariat members, who he said had dismally failed the conservancy members for self-gain.

According to Seibeb, the conservancy's game guarding patrols completely collapsed around 2008 because there was no funding for this activity.

"Everything was in line when the conservancy was formed in 2000, but in the meantime, because money came into play, things have fallen apart," Seibeb said.

The conservancy will have a general meeting with its members in March to discuss new structures and establish a new secretariat.

"We have to start from scratch. Only N$13 000 was found in the account of the conservancy despite reported business done for much more. We intend to have a forensic audit of our books, or we will hand over the matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission," Seibeb said.

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