Windhoek-The Ministry of Environment and Tourism says even though China will restrict the ivory market, illegal hunting and trade in ivory might still continue and government will not let its guard down despite the new restrictions.
This follows China’s recent announcement that it plans to ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, a move described by activists as a potential “game changer” for African elephants.
In an interview, the ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, maintained that government would continue to intensify its efforts to prevent and curb poaching.
He said China’s ban covered the formerly legal trade in ivory not the illegal trade, which is the biggest concern for Namibia.
“Our focus is to eliminate poaching in the country by breaking the syndicates that are masterminded and funded elsewhere with connections or links in Namibia,” he noted.
Muyunda further said they would not change their strategy by targeting Chinese nationals only, but would deal with poaching cases holistically.
Nevertheless, he said government remained concerned in light of the many Chinese nationals implicated in the escalating cases of poaching or trafficking of rhino horns or elephant tusks.
The Namibian government never thought that China condoned these actions at government levels, but rather that they represented criminal actions by individuals or groups.
In the ministry’s view, poaching in general is a problem regardless of who commits it.
“Both the Namibian and Chinese governments have a mutual task of contributing to the efforts of anti-poaching of wildlife in the country. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has invited its Chinese counterpart to be part of the anti-poaching drive in Namibia,” he stated. Namibia’s elephant tusk stockpile, which is worth millions of dollars, currently stands at 62.9 metric tonnes, excluding rhino horns.
The government found it a huge struggle to decide whether or not to disclose the size of the stockpile, because it could compromise security.
However, the ministry recently revealed that the current size of the ivory stockpile is 62 906.82 kg (62.9 tonnes).
The ministry further disclosed in an exclusive interview with New Era in December that out of the 62.9 tonnes, a total quantity of 26 056.51 kg (26.5 tonnes) represented legal ivory and 36 850.31 kg (36.85 tonnes) illegal ivory.
Meanwhile, a study involving scientists from Cardiff University, who also shared their findings with Namibia, concluded that the country must adopt a new strategy for conservation if it wants the black rhinoceros saved from extinction, because of the poaching crisis.
An international team of researchers for the first time compared the genes of all living and extinct black rhinoceros populations and found a massive decline in genetic diversity, with 44 of 64 genetic lineages no longer in existence.
The new data suggest that the future looks bleak for the black rhinoceros unless the conservation of genetically distinct populations is made a priority.
Professor Mike Bruford from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences made several observations with regard to the findings.
“Our findings reveal that hunting and habitat loss has reduced the evolutionary potential of the black rhinoceros dramatically over the last 200 years.
“The magnitude of this loss in genetic diversity really did surprise us – we did not expect it to be so profound.”
He indicated that the decline in the species’ genetic diversity threatened to compromise the rhino’s potential to adapt in the future, especially as the climate and African landscape changed due to increased pressure from man.
“The new genetic data we have collected will allow us to identify populations of priority for conservation, giving us a better chance of preventing the species from total extinction,” he noted.
The research team used DNA extracted from a combination of tissue and fecal samples from wild animals, and skin from museum specimens.
This information could be vital given the current poaching epidemic and the fact that poachers target some populations more than others.
Escalating poaching threatens the rhinos’ recovery as rhinoceros horn has attained an unprecedented and steadily rising value.