Onamatanga-The drafting of the revised national policy on human/wildlife conflict management has been finalised.
However, the policy needs to be endorsed by the minister of environment and tourism and submitted to Cabinet for approval.
Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta revealed this yesterday when he addressed communal farmers from Onamatanga in Omusati Region.
The review of the policy started in September last year with a public consultation conducted in all the 14 regions and concluded with a national workshop held in March this year.
It was realised there were gaps and challenges in managing human/wildlife conflict and new initiatives and innovative ideas were needed to put in place a policy framework to prevent and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
In the revised policy the ministry is also reviewing the current payment made under the human-wildlife conflict self-reliance scheme. The scheme is meant to offset losses caused by wildlife animals to farmers and communities and is not necessarily a compensation scheme. The national policy has been revised to address and manage human-wildlife conflict to recognise the rights and development needs of local communities. Shifeta also reminded communal farmers about the Nature Conservation Ordinace Act No. 4 of 1975 which has also been amended to provide for heavier and stiffer penalties for wildlife crime. The new act is now called Nature Conservation Amendment Act No. 3 of 2017. The sentence in the current revised law for killing rhino or elephant is N$25 million or 25 years’ imprisonment or both.
For killing a lion which is a protected species the sentence is N$500,000 or five years’ imprisonment or both.
Shifeta says the ministry is serious about wildlife crime prevention and law enforcement and communities should stop involving themselves in illegal hunting of wildlife.
“Rhinos and elephants and other wild animals have an economic value and are a significant contribution to the country’s GDP.”
He warned especially young people to stop being used in syndicates of illegal hunting of wildlife, thereby putting their lives and those of their families at risk.
Human/wildlife conflict remains a challenge that requires striking a balance between conservation priorities and people living with wildlife, he added. Shifeta says the environment ministry will put in place stricter measures to protect wildlife and minimise illegal hunting.
He says the ministry has started with the training of the first intakes of commandos in the Namibian Defence Force at Waterberg who will be deployed in Etosha National Park to fight poaching.
Five hundred people will be equipped with tactical skills and knowledge that are needed to be used in the fight against poaching.
The commandos will be deployed in Etosha and individuals who will enter Etosha National Park through undesignated entry points will put their lives at risk. The Environment and Tourism Ministry also intends to train game guards in conservancies for successful coordination against illegal hunting of wildlife and their protection.
He says the ministry wants to bring to an end illegal hunting of rhino and elephant, and killing wildlife will no longer be business as usual.
Shifeta gave a stern warning to members of the public to stop protecting and sympathising with poachers as their actions will not be entertained.