Seven suspected poachers were caught red-handed transporting carcasses of three buffalo late on Wednesday afternoon with a government pick-up vehicle with registration number GRN 7582.
The suspects, among them government employees, were arrested on Wednesday night in the game-rich Dzoti Conservancy in the area of Malengalenga in Linyanti Constituency. The vehicle used to commit the crime belongs to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, where one of the suspects is said to be employed as a driver.
This is not the first time a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of Health has been used in illicit activities. A few months ago a driver working for the same ministry was reportedly caught smuggling bags of maize meal in an ambulance and the pattern underpins the lack of controls over the health minsitry’s fleet in Zambezi.
The other suspect is an employee of the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), while others are said to be cattle headers who assisted in the skinning of the seized buffalo.
Speaking to New Era the chief warden in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in the Zambezi Region, Morgan Saisai, said the arrests were made possible after MET officials received a tip-off and subsequent investigations lead to the arrest of the suspects.
Apart from being charged with the illegal hunting of controlled game, the suspects have been also charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. It is said the firearm used by them is a .306 hunting rifle fitted with a telescope and a silencer.
In addition, the suspects have been charged with the violation of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003.
A criminal case has been opened and the suspects are expected to appear in court today.
The number of poaching incidents has escalated in the Zambezi Region in recent times. On Friday last week five suspects were arrested, including the principal of Sauzuo Combined School, 51-year old Morven Mukwata, who was caught red-handed with four elephant tusks in his car. All five suspects appeared in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where they were denied bail. And the case was postponed 25 April next year.
On Tuesday a Chinese national was arrested after he was caught with a pangolin skin in his shop. He appeared in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, where he was sentenced to pay of a fine of N$20 000 or spend five years in prison.
Sources in the know suggest the rise in the number of poaching incidents may be attributed in part to the conditions of drought, economic hardship and high levels of unemployment.