By Tiri Masawi – Southern Times
Windhoek – Southern African countries are facing severe challenges associated with wildlife poaching where illegal trade in pangolins, rhino horns and elephant tusks continue to thrive despite strong cooperation between member states.
Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta last week released statistics showing that in Namibia alone poaching targeting rhino, elephants and pangolins has become an Achilles heel resulting in the arrest of suspected poachers from Angola, Zambia, France and Mozambique.
He said despite Namibia and other SADC countries lining up strong animal conservation and protection laws and methods poaching remains a bigger threat to the survival of endangered species.
“In 2019, 45 rhinos were poached, compared to 74 in 2018, 55 in 2017, 61 in 2016 and 97 in 2015. Two rhinos have been poached to date this year. As for elephants, 12 were poached in 2019, 27 in 2018, 50 in 2017, 101 in 2016 and 49 in 2015. No elephant has recorded poached this year,” he said.
The Namibian minister said wildlife protection and law enforcement remained one of the core functions in 2019.
“The year 2019 was characterised by a high number of cases, arrests and rhino and pangolin poaching or trafficking. The number of arrests is significantly higher than in the previous years, which also had a lower percentage of arrests related to rhino, elephant and pangolin. Arrests and seizures related to rhino have remained relatively stable, while a high number of pre-emptive arrests continued to stop poachers before they killed animals,” he said.
Media reports also show that the same challenges of poaching primarily targeting rhinos, elephants and pangolins remains one of the key challenges in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe because of the high value associated with the trade of such animal products in Asia.
“For all these illegal hunting activities and illegal possession of game products, 87 cases were opened in 2019 with 20 people arrested, compared to 115 cases in 2018, 138 people arrested, 76 cases in 2017 with 123 people arrested, 135 cases in 2016, and 91 cases in 2015 , 96 people arrested, 26 firearms were seized while 27 vehicles were impounded,” he said.
Shifeta added that of the 201 people arrested in 2019, 182 were Namibians, nine were Zambians, seven Angolans, two French and a Mozambican.
“A range of capacity building for our wildlife management staff was undertaken in Namibia during 2019. This included training for financial investigations and lifestyle audits; intelligence and international exchanges to facilitate information sharing among various partners; building of capacity and trust among the law enforcement agencies; providing incentives to communities from wildlife; and of course support to the men and women on the ground in terms of their daily patrols, surveillance and detection,” he said.