By Werner Menges
A parlimentary committee is recommending that Namibia's nature conservation laws should be changed to improve law enforcement in the battle against poaching.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism should speed up the drafting of legislation to improve law enforcement and prevent the increase of poaching in Namibia, and the Ministry of Mines and Energy should consult regional authorities and local communities before allowing mining activities to take place in wildlife breeding areas, especially for the rhinoceros, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration is recommending in a report that was tabled in the National Assembly this week.
The committee also recommended that the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration should initiate an extradition agreement between Namibia and Angola to help combat cross-border wildlife crimes more effectively.
The report flows from a consultative meeting that the committee held at Wereldsend in the Kunene region's Sesfontein constituency in August last year.
Among the people who attended the meeting were community leaders from the area and the Kunene region, representatives of 12 conservancies in the region, people involved in conservation and tourism in Kunene, and representatives of the police, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Legal Assistance Centre.
Among the concerns expressed to the committee during the meeting were views that mining activities are disrupting rhinos in their breeding areas and contributing to an increase in poaching, that the influx of people from elsewhere into areas where rhinos are found is worsening the problem of poaching, and that there is no extradition agreement between Namibia and Angola, the committee reported.
Concern was also expressed about the absence of an office of the Namibian Police's Protected Resources Unit in Kunene, where most of Namibia's endangered black rhinos are found.
The committee further recorded concerns about the presence in Kunene of Chinese nationals doing the same business as local residents.
With China and countries in south-east Asia reported to be the main markets where rhino horns and elephant tusks are smuggled to from Africa, several Chinese citizens have been arrested and charged with crimes involving wildlife - including the alleged smuggling of rhino horns, ivory and pangolins - in Namibia in recent years.
The committee also heard that when Namibia's acclaimed conservancy programme was started, there was a sense of ownership among local communities in conservancy areas, but that this is no longer the case in some conservancies in Kunene. Poaching is partly caused by people not benefiting from conservancies in Kunene, while the situation in, for example the Tsumkwe area, where communities seem to derive more benefits from conservancies, is different, the committee was told.