By Theresia Tjihenuna
In a desperate bid to track down elusive poachers, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has increased the reward money of whistle-blowers on poaching from N$30 000 to N$60 000.
Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said government would rely on anyone who has information on poaching incidences to come forward as one of its efforts to put an end to the increasing illegal activities.
Shifeta yesterday said that poachers were targeting Namibians to carry out their dirty work and called on members of the public to speak out if they know something while investigations into the existing cases continue. Six suspects have been arrested so far in connection with poaching in the northern parts of the country.
The minister said poachers have switched from using hunting rifles to automatic guns.
“Wildlife trafficking is a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise that has expanded to more than just a conservation concern,” he said.
Last week, the ministry also said that several of its staff members were among the suspects being investigated over the poaching incidences, after announcing that over 60 carcasses were discovered, 54 of which were discovered in the Etosha National Park.
Shifeta said the country lost 24 rhinos to poaching last year, while this year, 60 rhinos have been poached which were all discovered during aerial patrols.
“As for elephants, 78 were poached in 2014, and 23 animals have been poached so far this year,” he said.
Police patrols have also been increased from 40 to 140 in the Etosha National Park, Bwabwata National Park and Palmwag Tourism Concession Area.
No Namibia Defence Force soldiers have been dispatched on the ground yet, as the ministry said it was still evaluating how they will be dispatched.
Shifeta also said all the carcasses that were recently discovered will go through post-mortem tests to determine whether the causes of deaths were natural or a result of poaching.
He said following an extended period of low wildlife crime in Namibia, there is a clear requirement for a strategy to upgrade law enforcement and wildlife crime prevention capacity in the country.
“As the ministry responsible for wildlife protection, we have been working with other law enforcement and conservation agencies to put short and longer term strategic measures in place to stop the current poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The short and long term measures involve issues of human capacity, surveillance, patrolling and detection,” he said.
However, the ministry also said it was skeptical about partnering private firms and embassies as they could be wolves in sheep's clothing.
Deputy minister Tommy Nambahu said the ministry has realised that it was being outsmarted by poachers.
“There is no silver bullet to this problem. We have to put in a host of measures that must be put in place. We are being outwitted by these criminals but we are sure that our efforts will yield results,” he said.
Nambahu further said that the public should not panic as the ministry has the situation under control. Nambahu said that government is still researching the use of drones in Namibia before it can make use of them.