By Sanet van Zijl
Namibia is home to some of the largest and toughest animals in the world, these include African bush elephants and both black and white rhinos. Unfortunately, these animals have been victim to poaching for many years, with the slaughter skyrocketing in recent years. The black rhino is currently critically endangered, but it seems that there may be hope on the horizon as Namibia is taking initiative in every way possible to save these majestic creatures.
In Namibia, the region that suffers most from poaching is the Kunene region, specifically the Palmwag area and Etosha national park. Recently the Palmwag anti-poaching unit acquired a helicopter that will be used to patrol the area.
The government is also planning to deploy anti-poaching units countrywide. In July 2014 the Ministry of Environment and Tourism announced that a 300-man anti-poaching unit would be deployed to patrol those regions most at risk. The current struggle aims at saving an estimated 25 000 elephants and 2 220 rhinos from a worsening poaching crisis.
The big guy on the anti-poaching scene right now is most surely the anti-poaching drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). In 2013, Google joined the fight against the poaching plaguing the African continent. They donated 5 million dollars to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to build automated, lightweight surveillance drones (UAV’s) with the aim of helping anti-poaching units get the upper hand over the poaching crisis across the African continent. The WWF, through its Wildlife Crime Technology Project, sponsors the UAV programme. Last year the Namibian government deployed three Falcon UAVs in conservancies to support the anti-poaching operations by the Namibian Defense Force (NDF) as part of a new aggressive strategy to combat an upsurge in the poaching of elephants and rhinos. In February the government plans to reassess whether these drones had the desired impact on the areas that they were deployed in and whether or not to purchase more of these drones.
Some businessmen have also been stepping up to the fight against poaching. Mr. Henri Slabbert and his business partner Mr. Chris Coetzee founded the non-profit organization The Next Generation Conservation Trust. The aim of the trust is to raise funds for the UAV poaching countermeasure. According to Slabbert, this is the only workable and preventative measure that will truly make a difference in the anti-poaching campaign. Instead of waiting for an incidence to occur and then tracing the poachers, the UAV will alert ground forces on poacher activity in an area before any harm has come to an animal.
In the northern Kunene and Omusati regions drastic measures have been taken and the humane dehorning of rhinos has begun. The government plans to stockpile the horns and sell them legally into the market after they have gained consent from the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.