By Mathias Haufiku
WINDHOEK- Cabinet has approved a request by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to allow the country’s security forces to be involved in the fight against poaching and other crimes threatening the country’s wildlife.
Cabinet granted the permission last week, according to Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga.
Namibia’s elephant population is currently over 20 000. About 78 elephants were poached in 2012, while 38 suffered the same fate last year. More than 10 elephants and 10 rhinos have already been poached so far this year.
Speaking exclusively to New Era yesterday, Herunga said government is “seriously concerned” about the ongoing poaching, hence the recent initiative to enlist all the security forces.
“Our submission to enlist all security forces to fight crimes committed against our wildlife was approved by Cabinet last week,” he said.
Herunga said poaching-prone regions such as Kavango East, Zambezi, Kunene and Erongo would be patrolled by the security forces.
The minister also tore into Namibians who are being used by foreigners to divulge information which is used by poachers during their poaching activities.
“As a Namibian it is very worrying to know that our own people are being used by poachers to pass information on where the wildlife is. What is even more worrying is the fact that there is no ivory market in Namibia, yet our people continue to put our wildlife at risk,” said Herunga.
He warned Namibians involved in poaching activities to refrain from doing so because they risk facing lengthy jail terms if arrested.
Asked whether laws relating to wildlife offences are punitive enough, Herunga answered:”I think our laws are fine but we will still review them so that the loopholes which we are not aware of at this point in time can be closed.”
Just last weekend, twelve men were arrested after they were found in possession of eight elephant tusks and dried game meat in Kavango East.
Herunga warned poachers that government has a trap in place to catch them.
The men were arrested with the tusks and other game products including a pangolin skin in the areas of Divundu and Ndiyona in Kavango East.
In an unrelated matter, poachers also killed four black rhinos and wounded three others in the Uukwaluudhi Conservancy in the Omusati Region a week ago.
New Era earlier this year reported that Namibia recorded 123 cases of elephant poaching in national parks between 2005 and May 2014, with 222 tusks weighing close to 1910,20 kg confiscated. About 105 suspects in possession of elephant tusks were arrested between 2005 and 2013. From 2005 to 2014, 11 cases of rhino poaching were recorded. Of the poached rhinos, 18 horns weighing 14,3 kg valued at N$599 532 were confiscated and nine suspects were arrested.
Poaching on the African continent continues to be the leading cause of death of many wildlife. Just last month, British soldiers were deployed to Kenya to join the fight to stop ivory poaching by terrorists who are allegedly funding their military operations by selling elephant tusks and rhino horns on the £12billion-a-year ivory black market.
On a global scale, in the past year 60 wardens and 38 000 elephants have been killed by illegal poachers.