Namibia: Elephant, Rhino Poaching Lowest Since 2016

THE poaching of elephants and rhinos has seen a drastic decline since 2016, when Namibia experienced some of its highest incidents.

This is according to data the Ministry of Environment and Tourism provided to The Namibian on Monday.

According to the ministry, in 2016, 101 elephants fell victim to poaching, while 61 rhinos were illegally killed.

Since then, elephant poaching has been on a steady decline, with 50 elephants poached in 2017, 27 in 2018 and 12 in 2019.

Meanwhile, rhino poaching has been variable, with 61 rhinos poached in 2016, 52 in 2017 and 70 in 2018.

Last year saw 45 rhinos killed - the lowest number since 2015.

Speaking to The Namibian, environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said the most significant contribution to the reduced poaching incidents was as a result of the collaboration between the ministry and law enforcement agencies.

"Since poaching started, we have prioritised the issue of intelligence so that we are able to stop poaching before it happens, instead of just responding to poaching cases," Muyunda stated.

Muyunda said the ministry made a concerted effort to intensify its intelligence, with the assistance of the police and the Namibian Defence Force.

"The police are responsible for security, especially at Etosha, and are patrolling and manning our national parks," he said.

He said urging the public to tip them off about suspicious activity has also contributed to the ministry's ability to halt culprits in their tracks.

"People who help us with successful arrests are rewarded. I think that, and the patriotism of our people, has led to the arrest of perpetrators," he detailed.

Muyunda said the swift arrest of perpetrators, coupled with the increased fines for those caught poaching, is also a contributing factor.

"We have increased our wildlife crime reports, which may also deter perpetrators from committing such crimes, and also the increased fines," he said.

Last year, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta revealed plans to consolidate the 1975 Nature Conservation Ordinance and the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act into one law, and make amendments that would help in tackling poaching and prosecuting criminals.

The Namibian previously reported that one of Shifeta's suggestions was to amend the bail conditions stipulated for wildlife crime suspects and increase the fine imposed on those caught in possession of, or trading in, wildlife products.

"Previously, we failed to consider the actual value of the kill, and we're trying to provide that in the current act," he said. "Someone caught in possession of a rhino horn, which is about US$90 000 [approximately N$1,3 million] per kilogram, must pay the full value of their kill, and if you don't pay, you serve time," the minister had said.

He also suggested stricter bail conditions should be implemented, so that a person arrested for committing a wildlife crime is monitored more closely to reduce the chance of violating the terms of their release on bail.

The Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act was previously amended in 2017.

While the ministry increased the penalties for offences involving wildlife products, Shifeta said there was a need to strengthen the prosecution of illegal trade and hunting.

Reflecting on a report compiled by the ministry of environment and the Namibian Police's Protected Resources Division, Muyunda said the government continues to improve intelligence mechanisms so that more people are arrested.

The report reveals that five new wildlife crime cases were reported last week, with 18 suspects arrested and charged.

Fifteen of these suspects were arrested on rhino poaching and trafficking charges. This also includes cases of conspiracy to commit rhino poaching.

Among those arrested were two Oshakati Town Council employees.

Heimo Tweuya Namweya and Seboron Shivolo Seboron were part of a group of eight culprits arrested at Etosha National Park last week when they were caught cutting off the horns of two rhinos they had shot.

The report detailed that six rhino horns, two pangolin skins, two firearms and three vehicles were seized during this period.

Muyunda cautioned perpetrators of wildlife crime against criminal activities, stating that these activities were becoming increasingly risky.

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