Unprecedented levels of rhino poaching have hit Namibia with the ever increasing number of rhinos poached now at 60, compelling the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to increase the reward from N$30 000 to N$60 000 to anyone with information on the latest incidences in the Etosha National Park.
According to statistics as provided by MET, the number of rhinos poached in Etosha now stands at 54, while the other carcasses were discovered in the Kunene’s Palmwag tourism concession area.
Last year Namibia lost 24 rhinos from poachers compared to 60 discovered this year. As for elephants, at least 78 animals were poached in 2014, while 23 have been poached so far this year.
MET and the Protected Resources Unit of the Namibian Police have offered to reward anyone that provides information leading to the arrest of poachers in Etosha and elsewhere.
The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, yesterday announced the new reward saying Namibians should be vigilant in preserving “our precious wildlife by reporting suspicious activities to the ministry or the Namibia Police Force”.
He added: “I say enough is enough. Those who are involved must know that the law will not spare them at all. For Etosha and Palmwag cases, we have suspects that we are following, and it is a matter of time before we arrest them. I went to Etosha last week and I spoke to management there.”
Shifeta admitted that some officials from the ministry were indeed involved in poaching, saying many are used to shoot the animals for a trans-national syndicate.
“It is true that 54 incidences happened in Etosha. It is also true that we received information that our staff are involved. Nothing will be swept under the carpet. We are going to investigate them,” he promised.
He said the situation demanded a review and update of government’s current strategies and measures to curb illegal hunting.
Shifeta said as poaching groups increased in number and sophistication, it was more important than ever that “law enforcement responses are robust, reliable and effective”.
He revealed that the number of police officers has been increased from 40 to 140 to ensure law enforcement presence in the park, with fully equipped vehicle patrols in addition to aerial patrols.
“We have worked and continue to work with the Namibian Police Force and Namibia Defence Force in putting boots on the ground and intensifying our patrols, and we continue to improve on this.
Today we have the presence of members of the police on the ground in Etosha, Bwabwata and Palmwag tourism concession area. Aerial patrols are also being conducted by the Namibian Police Force and Namibian Defence Force,” he said.
Regarding de-horning of such animals as a curbing measure, Shifeta said the exercise is effective but expensive. He added that the government allows private organisations to get involved in the exercise but under watch.
“We welcome any private partnership but we have to do it with care because even criminals can form anti-poaching organisations pretending to help government but they are poaching,” he explained.
Equally the deputy minister, Tommy Nambahu, reiterated the seriousness of illegal poaching.
“We have joint teams of uniform and un-uniformed people. We realised we are being outwitted by these criminals. But with the presence of law enforcement we are sure we will yield results. We say to the nation not to panic,” he noted.