Windhoek — The newly appointed head of the anti-poaching unit, retired police commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, says community members are one of the cornerstones, and most sophisticated and effective weapons in the battle against poaching that has reached alarming proportions in Namibia.
Early this month, government appointed the retired Oshana regional police commander as the head of the newly established anti-poaching unit.
One of his strategies, he says, will be to go back to the community members because poachers are part and parcel of such communities.
He said whenever the poachers go and carry out criminal activities, they always come from and go back to the community.
"I find it a serious challenge, looking at degree of the strategies used by poachers nowadays. This requires someone to prepare to the fullest. The strategies I am going to use will not be much different from the previous ones. In any war, you always need the support from the communities at large. One will not achieve his or her national goals without the strong backup of the community members," Kashihakumwa told New Era in an interview.
The former police commander has pledged to work hard to consolidate and strengthen the relationship with other security agencies to succeed in the fight against poaching.
"We should establish positive consultation all the time so we take the upper hand which will enable us to frustrate, isolate and discourage the poachers so that they don't have any room be it in Etosha or Bwabwata National Park or any corner of this country," he remarked.
He vowed to make sure no single second, minute, hour, day, week or month goes by without his unit knowing what these guys are thinking and planning to do at any given time or place.
According to Kashihakumwa, this would only work if everyone works as a team and the operation is intelligence-driven.
The organisation and establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, particularly the Directorate of Wildlife and National Parks, was amended to create the anti-poaching unit, which was approved by the Public Service Commission, with a staff structure consisting of 495 members.
Namibia has since 2014 lost 245 elephants due to poaching and this year, 17 elephants have been illegally hunted. Equally, Namibia has lost 241 rhinoceros to poaching since 2012.
This year alone, 18 rhinos (both government and privately owned) have been poached.
Due to the mounting cases of poaching recorded, 246 accused of different nationalities have been implicated in the slaughter of elephant and rhino since 2014.
Out of the 246 accused persons, a whopping 180 are Namibians, 23 are Angolans, 19 are Zambians, 13 are Chinese, six suspects are from Botswana, three are Congolese and one each from Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Asked whether the unit has enough manpower, he said it is not about quantity but quality, adding that one could have a lot of manpower but there are results to show.
Furthermore, Kashihakumwa noted the situation on the ground would dictate what is needed from the unit.
He urged the community members to remain extra vigilant and suspicious to any unusual movement in their vicinity.
Once they come across unusual activities, he said, they should call the nearest police or directly call him on his mobile phones: 0811246154 or 0816035050.
He cautioned tourists and visitors that when visiting national parks they should make sure they disengage the geo-location of their gadgets, as they could easily lead poachers to where endangered species such as rhino and elephants are located.