Khorixas-The anti-poaching campaign to stem the wanton slaughter of rhinos is struggling with funding, according to Chief Petrus Ukongo of the #Aodaman Traditional Authority, who is based at Khorixas.
“Our campaign is struggling with funding at the moment. We want to raise awareness at schools and other institutions about the plight of rhinoceros in our areas,” Ukongo said.
“We want to assist government anti-poaching efforts and those we have joined hands with, such as Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) and various conservancies, to address this issue, but funding is a problem. One has to have financial muscle to get the message to many people,” Ukongo told New Era this week.
“For campaigns like this finance is needed to protect and raise awareness on a daily basis – if not, it will be a problem,” Ukongo warned.
#Aodaman Traditional Authority has no budget for the rhino campaign and only does such activities through funding from conservancies and SRT. Owners of game farms that have rhinos, and individuals and organisations that have an interest in wildlife, were called upon to come on board to protect the rhino.
Ukongo said rhinos are unique and special animals that need to be protected as they contribute to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) through the thriving tourism industry – and that the protection of these highly endangered species must be taken seriously for future generations.
“Tourists invest in our country’s economy and through that employment is created by lodges and campsites. Rhinos feed thousands of families as tourism is one of the biggest contributors of employment creation,” said Ukongo, who has for the past years spoken out strongly against rhino poaching on radio stations and national television.
The #Aodaman Traditional Authority anti-poaching campaign last year visited towns such as Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Halali, Okakuejo and Tsumeb to raise awareness on why the poaching of rhinos is a disadvantage for Namibia as a country.
The anti-poaching campaign took along 30 children from Khorixas and surrounding areas who demonstrated in various towns against poaching of rhinos and who for the first time also saw rhinos. The children were between the ages of six and eight but this year the campaign wants to take 30 children between the ages of eight and twelve years, depending on availability of funds to further raise awareness and also for the children to see rhinos possibly for the first time.
Ukongo revealed last year’s campaigns were funded by the SRT, various conservancies such as Torra and Uibasen and the Swartbooi Traditional Authority based at Fransfontien settlement, which assisted with transport. Most of the funding was used for fuel, buying of T-shirts, printing and car stickers, which were given to motorists at roadblocks.
The #Aodaman chief applauded SRT, conservancies and traditional authorities for taking the lead against the poaching of rhinos and other endangered species.
Ukongo said that due to drought and the many guns in private hands rhino poaching is very rife, adding that during the 70s and 80s rhinos were abundant from Khorixas to Sesfontien, and one could easily see them grazing next to the roads which is not the case currently.
He also praised efforts by the Namibian government to protect wildlife such as rhinos.
Ukongo also called upon the government to refuse bail to those arrested for poaching of rhinos, or in cases where bail is granted he suggested it should be very steep to deter poachers.
Communities were advised to guard rhinos and other wildlife jealously. “It’s our pride. Our beauty. We can create money through various means rather than poaching. Stop poaching our wildlife,” Ukongo pleaded. Those who engaged in poaching were also advised to desist from this practice.