In an attempt to fight wildlife crime, the United States government on Monday availed more than N$7 million to assist Namibian authorities in their anti-poaching efforts.
US Ambassador to Namibia Thomas Daughton on Monday said the US government recently announced a N$26 million grant to support efforts to fight wildlife trafficking here in Namibia.
According to Daughton, the US is offering more than N$7 million in assistance to help equip the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s new anti-poaching training facility in Waterberg Plateau National Park.
“All this comes on top of hundreds of thousands of US dollars we have given every year for more than a decade to support conservation of Namibia’s vitally important rhino populations,” Daughton said when he addressed a second regional workshop for prosecutors and magistrates on combatting wildlife trafficking.
The US ambassador applauded the efforts of SADC member states to address wildlife trafficking head-on, including plans to promote their own whole-of-government response and efforts to increase regional cooperation.
“I’m pleased to be able to say that the United States is supporting you every step of the way. Prosecution and adjudication of wildlife trafficking crimes is a critical element in the fight against wildlife traffickers and when judges and magistrates know better how to adjudicate such cases, more of these criminals will be brought to justice and stopped from continuing their destruction of southern Africa’s natural heritage,” he argued.
The black market for illegal wildlife products, Daughton said, may be worth as much as US$19 billion (approximately N$265 billion). These black market profits, he says, are increasingly used to fund transnational criminal organisations, undermining national, regional and global security.
He mentioned that wildlife traffickers strip the natural beauty that attracts visitors to southern Africa, saying not only does this rob communities of important potential revenue derived from tourism, but also has a devastating impact on the biodiversity of the affected countries.
Illegal poaching over the last century has caused a devastating loss of wildlife in southern Africa.
“At current poaching rates rhinos, elephants and many other species could disappear within our lifetimes. If we do nothing, future generations may never have the chance to see these majestic creatures in the wild,” Daughton said, adding that beyond just threatening shared natural heritage, wildlife trafficking also endangers peace and stability.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, could not provide New Era with the estimates of the rhino population in Namibia, saying unfortunately the ministry cannot give such information – for security reasons. “But from near extinction in 1960s, Namibia now has the largest free-ranging population of black rhinos in the world,” he noted. According to him, Namibia’s elephant population is currently between 20 000 to 25 000 elephants.
Daughton said wildlife trafficking is an international crisis, adding that poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products create one of the largest black markets in the world, measured in billions of US dollars a year.
He noted the US government has long supported action to reduce wildlife trafficking and poaching.
In 2013, he said, us President Barack Obama set up a whole-of-government task force to develop and implement a national strategy for combatting wildlife trafficking. The said national strategy was developed in 2014 – with one of its pillars to strengthen international cooperation in fighting wildlife trafficking.