N$23m for combating wildlife trafficking

The United States of America (USA), in partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has announced a grant sponsorship valued at N$23.4 million for combatting wildlife trafficking in support of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), this week.

These donations will make a significant difference to our efforts to combat wildlife trafficking by the active engagement of civil society organisations in Namibia and the support of Namibia’s citizens the Minister of MET, Pohamba Shifeta said.

“Prior to the adoption of this approach, wildlife had been eliminated from most of Namibia and replaced by farming, and rhino populations from pre-colonial times had been massively reduced. In the 1970s and 80s, the remaining rhino was devastated by poaching which the MET with community support were able to stop,” he said.

He further added that wildlife recoveries began when the Government of Namibia adopted innovative conservation policies, which granted rights over wildlife and tourism to land holders including communal conservancies and the recovery of wildlife in Namibia included the dramatic recovery of rhino.

However, after decades of conservation success, the situation for rhinos in southern Africa has altered dramatically in recent years and extremely high prices for illegal horn have precipitated an unprecedented surge in rhino poaching. This is being driven by international organised criminal syndicates, who have lured a number of Namibians into becoming poachers.

 “The Government has the duty of protecting these species because of our unique constitutional obligation and commitment to protecting our biodiversity and because they are essential for our growing biodiversity economy, which is generating significant employment for Namibian citizens and is increasingly contributing to GDP and earning foreign exchange,” Pohamba said.

He added that Namibia was initially spared during the first few years of the present wildlife crime crisis, but since 2013, rhino and elephant poaching has dramatically increased. The US Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton reiterated that in the last few years, Namibia has begun to confront a new kind of environmental challenge.

 “Poaching in one form or another has been around for decades, but trafficking in endangered wildlife products, particularly rhino horn and elephant tusk, has increased sharply in Namibia in just the last few years. Hardly a week passes without headlines about a poaching incident or the appearance of a wildlife trafficker in court,” he said.

He further noted that the e multi-sector project made possible by this new grant aims to strengthen collaboration among protected area officials, communal conservancies, law enforcement, and freehold rhino custodian farms with the goal of improving wildlife crime detection, case development, and arrest and conviction rates.

 The Villager learnt that this project will capitalize on a series of existing wildlife crime response strategies developed by the Namibian government over the past few years, leading to a draft National Strategy on Wildlife Protection and Law Enforcement and it will kick-start a National Wildlife Crime Secretariat that will align and focus NGO, private sector and community efforts around a collectively agreed approach on how to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking in Namibia.