Windhoek — The newly signed Nature Conservation Amendment Act will empower the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to ban entry into Namibia of foreign nationals involved in wildlife crimes related to the possession and dealing in elephant and rhino products, after they serve their prison terms.
This was announced by the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu, last Friday during the wildlife trafficking workshop organized by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Windhoek. Nambahu said the Act empowers the home affairs ministry to ban such individuals because the majority of culprits found guilty of illegal wildlife trading are foreigners, in particular Chinese nationals.
He said the current penalties for wildlife crimes are not sufficient deterrents, especially taking into account that trade and possession often involve foreign kingpins who are able to easily pay their way out of these fines.
It was the second wildlife trafficking workshop organized by the Chinese embassy to create awareness among local Chinese nationals in order to reduce trafficking of ivory and other threatened wildlife involving its nationals.
Nambahu's announcement coincided with President Hage Geingob signing the Nature Conservation Amendment Act into law at State House on Friday.
The Act seeks to increase fines for rhino and elephant poachers from the current maximum of N$200,000 to N$25 million.
The Act is aimed at urgently curbing rhino and elephant poaching, which have drastically increased in Namibia.
According to the Act, if found illegally with specially protected species a person will be fined N$10 million from the current N$20,000 and imprisonment of five to ten years.
During the signing ceremony at State House, Geingob said the increased incidents of illegal poaching are a serious matter and must be dealt with accordingly.
"I therefore welcome the stiff sentences this Act provides," he said.
According to statistics, 135 elephant tusks and pieces and 36 rhino horns were seized by the authorities in 2016.
A further 21 elephant tusks and four rhino horns were confiscated by the state this year alone.
Moreover, Namibia has been involved in two seizures of rhino horns, effected in South Africa and Hong Kong.
The Act also seeks to increase general penalties from the current maximum of N$250 to N$6,000 and imprisonment of three to six months for first time offenders.
Subsequent same offenders will be fined N$12,000 from the current maximum of N$500 and imprisonment of six to 12 months.
Fines for the illegal hunting of all protected species will increase from the current maximum of N$4,000 to N$500,000 and imprisonment of four to five years, while for that of all other species will increase from the current maximum of N$2,000 to N$500,000, and imprisonment of two to five years. Nambahu said the current levels of illegal trade and wildlife trafficking promote corruption, threaten peace and stability, strengthen illicit trade routes and destabilise economies.
He added that wildlife trafficking not only threaten the existence of iconic species but the very stability of the countries involved.
In addition, he said, wildlife trafficking has devastating impacts as it pushes species to the brink of extinction and threatens security, while undermining the rule of law and restricting economic development.
"It robs local communities of their natural resource base, including the economic benefits they derive from the legal sale of wildlife and hunting revenues. Combatting wildlife trafficking is not a short-term project; it is a long-term process with the guaranteed commitment from the government, private sectors, and of the communities that live with wildlife," he noted.
In addition, the amendment Act also increases fines for people who don't comply with the law regulating the possession and selling of wildlife, from N$8,000 to N$100,000, while jail time will be increased from two to 10 years.
He thanked the Chinese Government for their positive efforts and commitment to support Namibia to deal with wildlife crime, especially poaching and trafficking of wildlife products derived from species such as rhino and elephant.
He is hopeful that the awareness raising campaign and other measures by the Chinese government will bear fruit.
The Chinese enterprises living in Namibia created the Wildlife Trafficking Fund aimed to assist the Namibian government in fighting wildlife crime. The Chinese corporates living in Namibia donated N$100,000 towards the fund.