Statistics released by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism show that the elephant population in Namibia has increased to over 20 000 from less than 8000 in 1995.
The increase in elephant population can be attributed to the wildlife recoveries programs across the country that rescues and protects rare and endangered species such as elephants and black rhinos.
Amendments to the Nature Conservation Ordinance No. 4 of 1975 that gave birth to the Nature Conservation Amendment Act of 1996 allows for the establishment of conservancies in communal areas to enable local community-based institutions to sustainably manage natural resources. This put Namibia’s conservation methods on the forefront in international conservation circles and is hailed in all corners of the world.
“Through legislation, communities that form conservancies gain management rights over wildlife and tourism. They are able to use management rights to develop economic opportunities such as eco-tourism and hunting. This opportunities in turn bring income and jobs for communities in some of the poorest areas of the country,” deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu said.
According to Nambahu, the income gained by conservancies provide an incentive for continued wise-management of wildlife and other natural resources as communities wish to maintain the income flow into the future.
An increase in incidents of poaching since 2014, mainly targeting rhinos and elephants, has necessitated the Ministry to continuously called upon all sectors of the society, including the private sector, to get involved in the fight against poaching, which places conservation efforts of in jeopardy. According to Nambahu, the current trend of poaching and its complexities requires all sectors of society to stand together in rooting out the elements involved in this criminal activity.
“Poaching and illegal wildlife trade is a multimillion dollar global enterprise attracting increasingly organized and complex criminal syndicates. These groups operate across borders, exploiting gaps in enforcement to facilitate and fund the poaching and trafficking of vulnerable species. Increased cooperation and capacity building among government law enforcement investigators are critical to dismantling these organisations and the support of the private sector and other stakeholders in regard is very much needed,” Nambahu said.
The Wildlife and Protected Area Management Programme has been allocated an amount of N$213,189,000 while the Tourism Development and Gaming Programme has been allocated N$81,485,000 in the Environment and Tourism Ministry’s 2016/2017 financial year. The Planning, Coordination, Infrastructure Development, Maintenance, Monitoring and Evaluation programme received N$148,376,000.
Nambahu said that poaching might be one of the biggest challenges Namibia is faced with, adding that poaching presents severe economic implications through adverse impacts on tourism and trophy hunting.
“While we strongly believe that the fundamental requirement for the protection of wildlife should be preventing animals from being killed illegally and not just on following up after they have been killed, we also believe that it is only through a collaborative approach that we can break even in this regard,” Nambahu noted.
Government recognised that it cannot fight the battle against poaching alone and therefore requires the involvement of the private sector stakeholders. The Namibian Breweries Limited (NBL) has decided to join hands with the ministry in combating poaching by introducing the ‘Blow The Horn on Poaching’ campaign. Through the NBL, a subsidiary of the Ohlthaver and List Group of Companies, has availed N$1 million to entice the general public to provide tip-offs leading to the arrest of rhino poachers.
“Tourism is a major contributor to job creation in Namibia and has the potential to create many more jobs, which is exactly what we need in our quest to fight poverty. Apart from the peace and stability which makes Namibia a safe tourism haven, other key factors driving Namibian tourism are natural heritage and wildlife, of which rhinos are a major attraction,” NBL Managing Director Wessie Van Der Westhuizen highlighted.
Four informants each stand to benefit N$250 000 from the N$1 million for information relayed to the Intelligence Support Against Poaching (ISAP) that will lead to arrests of perpetrators or towards curbing incidents of poaching.
The current statistics of poaching are worrisome and according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of African rhinos killed by poachers have increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1338 rhinos killed across Africa last year. Since 2008, poachers have killed 6 000 African rhinos.
Figures released by the MET earlier this year show that at least 80 cases of illegal rhino poaching were recorded in the county. Last month 34 rhino carcases were reported to have been discovered through aerial and foot patrols in the Etosha National Park and Palmwag/Klip River areas of the Kunene region since last year.