Alarming statistics released by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism reveal that a whopping 160 rhinos have been poached countrywide since last year, with most incidences reported in Etosha National Park.
Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday disclosed that 125 rhinos were killed from January to December last year alone, while another 35 carcasses were discovered from January this year to date.
Of the 37 poached this year, 28 of the carcasses were discovered in Etosha National Park and eight of them in the Kunene Region, while one was killed on a private farm.
Similarly, another scary statistic reveals that 31 elephants have been poached to date this year alone, compared 49 carcasses discovered in 2015. “It is a pity all these incidences happened. We started arresting suspects although some were released on bail,” Shifeta said.
Some of the recent arrests were made in the surrounds of Outjo, Otjiwarongo and Windhoek. Shifeta said he discussed the bail issue with the Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa to air his concern that granting bail to suspected poachers may jeopardise investigations.
Shifeta noted that sometimes they have serious evidence against suspected poachers, who nevertheless end up being released on bail.
“If a suspect lives near the poaching area, we will be able to say that such a person should report to the police daily if he or she leaves the area. We discovered that these people on bail go back and commit the same crime. It is frustrating that law enforcement officials on the ground arrest people and then the suspects are just granted bail. It is a challenge for us,” he remarked. Shifeta said the ministry – in conjunction with law enforcement officials – is trying its best to win the war against poaching through the use of both aerial and foot patrols. It, however, remains a challenge as such illicit activities are conducted by syndicates, he noted.
“We discovered some people camping in Etosha, where it’s mountainous. Those camping make sure you can’t patrol there using a car. We will use horses to patrol these areas, because now if they hear noise from the helicopter, they hide,” he said.
Some of the recent incidents, he said, were detected in the Zambezi Region, adding that the carcasses were spotted through an aerial patrol of the Linyanti area. “Criminals are changing directions. Most are coming from the western side of Etosha where communities live,” he observed.
He also discussed the drought situation, saying wildlife animals are still in a good condition in bigger national parks, such as Etosha and Bwabwata, as opposed to smaller parks such as the Namib Naukluft along the desert, Daan Viljoen, Von Bach, Naute and Hardap, where the animals are more concentrated.
He said he engaged Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amathila on the possibility of culling some 300 animals – mainly male springboks – that would be consumed by affected communities for drought relief purposes.