Poachers ÔÇÿcreamÔÇÖ off N$157m

Illegal poaching syndicates made out with a whooping N$157 million from Namibia after killing 77 rhinos, 37 elephants this year the latest data revealed by the Minister of Pohamba Shifeta shows.

The value of one rhino in Namibia is N$1 800 000, while an elephant is valued at N$500 000 each. However, in cases of trophy-hunting, rhinos can raise up to N$4 000 000 per head, while elephants go as high as N$2 500 000, depending on the bidders.

“The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has been actively collaborating with the Namibian Police Force, the Namibian Central Intelligence Service and the Namibian Defence Force to curb the illegal hunting of wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants. Not forgetting community members, whose cooperation made it easier for our joint operations to make a breakthrough in stopping the poaching of our rhinos and elephants in Namibia”, said the Minister.

Of the total number of rhinos poached since January 2015, 61 were killed in the Etosha National Park. A total of 8 rhinos were poached in the Kunene region in the Omatendeka, Orupembe and Puros constituencies. One of these rhinos was killed in January, four in March, one in June and two in October 2015.

In April this year, the MET and its stakeholders drew up a plan to curb the poaching of rhinos and elephants in Namibia, and the Ministry’s antipoaching operations have cost up to N$151 000 000.

“These includes salaries, S&T, overtime, vehicle running costs, logistics such as uniforms, helicopter and pastoral costs, food and accommodation for police officers as well as lawenforcement equipment”, Shifeta explained.

MET officials continue to work closely with the police in law-enforcement and crime prevention around the country. Park security for the Etosha National Park, the Bwabwata National Park and the Palmwag Tourist Concession Area has been placed in the trust of the Namibian Police Force.

“During the operation, a total of 73 suspects have so far been arrested, mostly from areas surrounding the Etosha National Park (ENP) area and the Bwabwata National Park area. 49 of these have been arrested from areas surrounding ENP, and 42 of these suspects have been charged with the illegal hunting of rhinos. The remaining seven suspects were released for now due to a lack of evidence. Among the suspects, one is an Angolan national. Most of the suspects were arrested in the areas of Onamutanga, Uutsathima, Iitapa and Otyenoa in the Omusati Region”, he further noted.

An array of rifles and ammunition has been confiscated from the ENP, totalling 59 items. 32 of the confiscated rifles were linked to potential poaching, and of those, 23 were sent for ballistic testing.

“In another operation, three suspects were arrested in the Kunene Region, and are linked to poaching in the Palmwag Tourism Concession Area. Rifles and ammunition were found in their possession.Two other suspects were arrested in the Erongo Region on 08 July 2015 in connection with poaching crimes. As for the illegal hunting of elephants and the possession of elephant tusks, 17 suspects have been arrested”, Shifeta said.

In one of the arrests, six were nabbed in the Bwabwata National Park for the illegal possession of nine elephant tusks.Among the six suspects were three nationals from Botswana, while the other three are Namibians. It is suspected that they hunted the elephants in either the Bwabwata National Park in Namibia, or the Chobe National Park in Botswana.

The suspects remain in custody. According to the Minister, one elephant was shot and wounded by poachers in the Bwabwata National Park on 23 June this year and was destroyed by MET officials. Although the poachers fled, members of the Namibian Police Force and the game rangers of the Ministry managed to confiscate an AK-47, an R1 rifle and ammunition for a 375 hunting rifle.

“The focus we have adopted is on preventing animals from being killed illegally, and not just on following-up after they had been killed. We have, therefore, established and maintained a lawenforcement or security presence on the ground. “In this regard, we have been hard at work in the creation of a Division of Wildlife Protection Services or an Anti- Poaching Unit within the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and this has now been approved by the Office of the Prime Minister. We are now thus working on the implementation mechanism”, he stated confidently.