Windhoek-Namibia has since 2014 lost 245 elephants to poaching, out of which 17 were illegally hunted this year alone. The country has also lost 241 rhino since 2012 through poaching, while this year 18 rhino were poached.
The number of people implicated in the poaching activities since 2014 are at 246 persons, of whom 180 are Namibians, 23 Angolans, 19 Zambians, 13 Chinese, six Batswana, three Congolese and one person from Tanzania and Zimbabwe each.
The deputy director of Wildlife and National Parks in the Central Regions Johnson Ndokosho revealed the statistics during the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) workshop where he was invited to share the status of rhino and elephant poaching in Namibia, and what the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and its partners are doing to respond to poaching threats.
According to Ndokosho, Namibia had the second largest population of rhino in the world estimated at 2,800 by the end of 2016, while the elephant population in the country is just over 22,000 animals.
“The main threat to rhinos and elephants in Africa is poaching and Namibia has not been spared. Poaching of our wildlife presents a serious impact on the country’s economic development due to financial losses associated with tourism and loss of employment,” he noted.
Further, he said poaching has also undermined government conservation efforts including robbing communities of income that they get as incentive for living with wildlife through a programme known as community-based natural resources management (CBNRM).
Ndokosho said the Ministry of Environment and Tourism together with the Namibian Police Force and Namibia Defence Force would not relent until poaching is completely defeated.
“Our aim has been to protect the rhinos and elephants before the poachers get to them by carrying out both ground and aerial patrols in hotspot areas and by sharing intelligence,” he said.
However due to the vastness of the areas such as Bwabwata and Etosha national parks, as well as Kunene area, he says preventing poaching altogether has not always been successful.
He added that the ministry has established a law enforcement centre at Waterberg where anti-poaching teams are undergoing training to better protect the country’s wildlife.
The ministry has also amended the Nature Conservation Ordinance, No. 4 of 1975, through the recent Nature Conservation Amendment Act, which came into force on June 28.
The new law provides for hefty penalties for illegally hunting rhinos and elephants, which now attract a maximum fine upon conviction of an amount not exceeding N$25 million or 25 years in prison, or both.
The Act further makes it possible to declare as ‘unwanted immigrant’ foreigners who are involved in these criminal syndicates. This means foreign nationals can be ejected from the country once they have been convicted of poaching.
“General fines related to admission of guilt have also been increased to make them more deterrent to perpetrators of wildlife crime,” he noted.