By Ellanie Smit
The Palmwag Concession Anti-Poaching Unit last week received a helicopter that will be used to combat rhino poaching in the Kunene Region.
Namibia experienced a sudden increase in rhino poaching this year. At least 22 rhinos have been killed by poachers, most of them black rhino in the Kunene Region.
The owner of the Palmwag Lodge, Fritz Schenk, said the helicopter arrived at the lodge last Wednesday and said that it will greatly assist the anti-poaching unit in their efforts to combat poaching through more effective patrolling of the area.
The Palmwag Concession covers 582 000 hectares.
Schenk said there is a poaching crisis in Namibia, which is centred on the Palmwag area while the Etosha National Park is also being targeted.
According to him the aim of fundraising by the anti-poaching unit was to raise N$500 000 to protect the rhinos in the Kunene Region. The money will be used to control the area by air, with 4x4 vehicles and by rangers on foot.
He said the unit has nearly reached the N$500 000 target, with most of the money from pledges made at the Hospitality Association of Namibia’s (HAN) annual gala dinner as well as by private donors.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), together with the Namibia Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations (NACSO), donated two Land Cruisers and funding in support of the anti-poaching unit.
Schenk said the unit is a combined effort of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Save the Rhino Trust, Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), the WFF and Palmwag Lodge.
Koos Verwey, the owner of Epupa Falls Lodge and Campsite, will be in charge of setting up the structures of the anti-poaching unit.
Verwey said rhino conservation is a priority for the country and that these animals belong to everybody in Namibia.
His role is helping everybody to work together for the sake of the rhino and also to work out the structures of the anti-poaching programme. “In the weeks to come we will build bridges and bring people together. The entire rhino programme is so important for everybody, especially for the people in the area. Our problems are not here on the higher level, but on the ground where we need the understanding of the communities,” said Verwey.