Poaching threatens Namibia’s achievements in sustainable tourism and conservation, Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga said on Wednesday.
“Due to conservation over the past 25 years, Namibia is today the only African country with an expanding, free roaming lion, giraffe and elephant population,” he told reporters in Windhoek.
He was speaking ahead of the upcoming annual conference of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism under the United Nations’ Environment Programme, that Namibia will host in February.
“We have the largest cheetah population in the world. Sadly, this success story is threatened by poaching of our rhinos at an alarming rate,” Herunga said.
“Rhinos are a national treasure and a national asset to all Namibians. It is in the interest of all Namibians to protect and be part of the protection of our rhinos and other wildlife. It is also in the interest of tourists to help ensure that African wildlife survives this onslaught.”
Herunga said local media could help create awareness of the plight of Namibia’s rhinos.
“This will ensure that all Namibians become part of the team combating poaching.”
Herunga said poaching rhino and elephants for their horns and tusks was done by a few locals to meet Asia’s demand.
The government has deployed soldiers and police to help nature conservation officers patrol remote areas where black rhinos and elephants roam freely.
In the last two months three poached rhino, with their horns removed, were found in Namibia’s world-famous Etosha National Park.
Twenty-two rhino and 76 elephants had been poached in Namibia so far this year.
“We had to correct the rhino figures up from 20 to 22 animals as we found two more poached animals in the north-western Kunene Region recently, where we had originally spotted three animals,” the ministry’s spokesman Romeo Muyunda told a Sapa correspondent.
Tourism is the third-largest economic sector in Namibia, after mining and fishing. In 2013, 1.3 million foreign tourists visited Namibia, which has a population of 2.1m.