By Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun
A total of 117 suspects were arrested from October to December last year in connection with wildlife crimes and 246 wildlife products were seized during this period.
According to a statement issued by the police these products included elephant tusks, rhino horns, pangolins, animal skins, shells and eggs. It involved operations conducted by the police, the Namibian Defence Force, the environment ministry and the Blue Rhino Task Team.
According to the statistics 17 suspects were arrested during that period for rhino poaching or trafficking, while 25 suspects were arrested for elephant poaching or trafficking. Furthermore 11 firearms, 100 rounds of ammunition and seven vehicles were confiscated.
Police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Kauna Shikwambi says the government regards the combating and prevention of wildlife crime as a priority, as it has a negative impact on tourism. This is because the majority of tourists visit Namibia to view iconic species such as rhinos and elephants.
Shikwambi warns that the government has increased the penalties for wildlife crimes.
Elephant or rhino poaching can now incur a fine of N$25 million, 25 years’ imprisonment, or both. Previously the maximum sentence was N$200,000 or 20 years’ imprisonment. For possession of rhino horns, elephant tusks or pangolin skin, a convict can be sentenced to a fine of N$15 million, 15 years in prison, or both. This sentence was increased from N$20,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
“This should be a clear warning to would-be offenders that they will face the full force of the law if they contravene wildlife laws. We call on the public to patriotically report such illegal activities relating to wildlife crimes to law enforcement agencies,” said Shikwambi.
She added that no one in Namibia is allowed to possess any of the specifically protected species or their products without a valid permit issued by the environment ministry.