Rundu – The exchange of fire between the anti-poaching unit of the Namibian Police Force and poachers in the Bwabwata National Park has become a regular occurrence, with four suspects killed in separate encounters of late.
Elephants in the park are primarily illegally hunted for their ivory. On March 5 an elephant was found dead with bullet wounds. However, poachers did not have enough time to remove the tusks due to the quick response by the anti-poaching unit that quickly swung into action after hearing gunshots in the area.
Last month an elephant was found dead in the same area but without its tusks.
According to Deputy Commissioner William Peter, who is a silver commander but acting as a gold commander of the current Elephant Tusk Operation in Bwabwata National Park, and Kavango East and Zambezi regions, police have since September last year had five encounters with poachers where gunfire was exchanged.
Four suspected poachers were killed in the exchanges while four were injured. Last Friday night one man, suspected to be poacher, died during another exchange of gunfire with anti-poaching unit members. Two men were injured while another was arrested unharmed.
“This happened when anti-poaching members were checking for suspected poachers within the park on the western side of Kongola area, and when they found them the poachers started firing at our members,” said Peter.
“The suspects were found with two firearms which they used to shoot at anti-poaching unit members but there was no casualty on the side of law enforcement officials. The identity of the deceased and the three others cannot be given yet pending the next of kin of the deceased still having to be informed and the appearance in court of the others,” Peter added.
The poacher who was arrested unharmed was expected to appear in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
The police urged members of the public who get involved in poaching to refrain from the unlawful activity. They are also appealing to the community to inform them of suspicious activities in the park where more than 20 communities also live. “We hear gunshots in the area every now and then but our members are on the ground,” Peter said.
“People informing the police may positively lead to the arrest of illegal hunters and those in unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition within our communities. Unlicensed firearms and ammunition are being used in committing these types of crimes against the regional and local environment – they are being used to poach wild animals and protected game within parks,” Peter said.
Bwabwata is a national park located in north-east Namibia. The park was established in 2007 and is 6 274 square kilometres in size. It was created from Caprivi Game Park in the then Caprivi Region and Mahango Game Reserve in the then Kavango Region.
Bwabwata spreads over the Zambezi and Kavango East regions, extending along the Caprivi Strip. It is bounded by the Kavango River to the west and the Kwando River to the east. Angola lies to the north and Botswana to the south.
The area is an important migration route, from Botswana to Angola, for elephant and some other game species. It is an unusual, protected area as about 5 500 people live in the park. The government involves residents and neighbours in planning and managing the park.