Windhoek-The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has revealed that they arrested more than 222 suspects for poaching and illegal possession of either rhino horns or elephant tusks in 2016.
Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta made the revelations on Friday during the ministry’s belated annual staff meeting, where he said they had recovered and confiscated 36 rhino horns, 56 elephant tusks and 79 pieces of elephant tusks.
“This is a considerable achievement by both the Namibian police and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, with the assistance of the other partners,” he noted and said 2016 was a tough year for the ministry, marred by budget cuts in the wake of an increasing number of poaching and human-wildlife conflict cases.
“I am happy that together as a team we managed to weather the storm,” he said.
Shifeta acknowledged that for more than three years now, poaching of rare and high value species, such as rhino and elephants, has been a grave concern for the ministry and the country at large.
He said although rhino and elephant poaching seem to be on the decrease, trends and numbers over the past few years were disturbing and therefore poaching clearly needed to be brought under complete control.
He said poaching is driven by international crime syndicates and is a complex phenomenon.
“In our efforts to address this problem, we should recognise that we are not dealing with the normal subsistence poaching, as it was in the past. Rhino and elephant poaching has become commercialised and there are huge financial incentives for people to get involved and participate in the commission of such crimes,” Shifeta added.
He said it is thus crucial that the ministry remain on high alert and keep refining strategies and tactics.
Since the beginning of the current elephant and rhino-poaching crisis, government through the ministry has been putting measures in place to address the problem in the country, he said.
He said more resources have been allocated to fight poaching and more government agencies have come on board to support their efforts, including the Namibian police, the Namibian Defence Force, the National Central Intelligence Services and the judiciary.
He also applauded private individuals and the private sector, who have come on board to support government efforts to eliminate the poaching problem and encouraged all patriotic Namibians, who value wildlife and its protection, to join hands with the ministry.
He also highlighted human-wildlife conflict as one of the most difficult challenges conservation agencies and the ministry is faced with and observed that the prevalence of such conflicts has frustrated people, in particular farmers, to the extent they have resorted to taking the law into their own hands when they suffer damage and losses as a result of such conflict.
He urged farmers and the public at large to work closely with the staff members of the ministry, who are deployed nearest to them to deal with this problem.
Shifeta also encouraged staff members to be prompt in responding to such conflicts to avoid farmers hunting and killing predators that cause damage to their properties without the consent of the ministry.
Further, he revealed that a total of 421 environmental impact assessments and 193 mining claims were processed during the 2016/17 financial year.
Approximately 90 sites were inspected for compliance with the Environmental Management Act, mainly in the Kunene, Omusati, Kavango, Khomas, Erongo, Hardap and Omaheke regions.
He said these covered a wide range of sites, including waste disposal sites, mines, sand mining operations, clinics, hospitals, lodges, schools and hostels.
In response 37 compliance orders and notifications were issued.
“The public should take note that we mean business and will not fail to take further action and prosecute offenders if non-compliance remedies are not implemented,” he cautioned.