The Namibian Police Force is greatly perturbed about an article in the Insight Magazine of January 2017 written by Frederico Links, titled Poaching Exposing Everyone. Apart from the fact that the article is vexatious and lacks details, claims and assertions contained therein are untrue and unreasonable.
Response: The reality is that while an armchair pundit has the laxity of sitting back and assessing an issue from a controlled and ideal atmosphere, officers on the ground and those who are actively involved in dealing with these issues push through serious challenges in an often testing environment to serve this country and protect its wildlife.
Currently Namibia holds the second largest population of Rhinoceros in the world, including the world’s largest population of black Rhinoceros. The world’s largest contiguous Elephant population of about 250 000 Elephants can be found within the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), with about 16 000 in North-eastern Namibia. Securing the safety of these animals is a huge responsibility, which involves securing an impressive 20 state-run networks of Protected Areas (PAs) which covers over about 17% of the country’s land surface, and porous border areas.
The proclamation of most protected areas in Namibia predated the emergence of biodiversity conservation science. During the last two decades, Namibia experienced remarkable recovery of all large mammals, including Rhinoceros and Elephants, through commendable and innovative interventions by Government, such as Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM). We are not infallible and we also do not claim to have the best and most watertight system in place, but to label our efforts ‘upgradeable cluelessness’ is certainly a fallacy.
We do not deny the fact that of recent, Namibia experienced unprecedented levels of poaching of particularly Rhinoceros and Elephants species in our National Parks. We also recognize that wildlife crime in Namibia has reached a new quality of violence and an enhanced frequency of incidences. Well organised armed gangs enter vulnerable areas, crime syndicates organise the trafficking of horns and tusks through complex networks, leading to foreign markets. Yet, the law enforcement agencies are determined and prepared for the task to curb this menace.
Faced with severe poaching threats involving external criminal syndicates, we have adopted a National strategy to Wildfire Protection and Law Enforcement for 2016-2020, which is effectively in force. It entails undisclosed number of National Strategy Objectives, Strategic Approach, Community Care and Engagement, Stakeholder Engagement and Coordination Initiatives coupled to a number of specific Activities.
Hence, we have also deployed quite a number of anti-poaching contingents in the National Parks. We are also cognisant of the fact that, the Nature Conversation Ordinance, 1975 (No. 4 of 1975) has been under revision and for some time and that the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill urgently needs to be promulgated.
Importantly, in accordance with the strategic Approach, the need to establish a Wildlife Protection Service Division (Anti-Poaching Unit) within the Ministry of Environment and Tourism with the abilities, motivation and dedication that match or exceed that of the poachers they are up to against and this is to be realized very soon.
Our efforts in the fight against poaching have been quite the opposite of ‘numb’ as the ill-informed author suggests. Unprecedented resources, manpower and multi-stakeholder efforts have been dedicated to this task, which have resulted in considerable statistical success which has been recorded over the last three consecutive years, viz: