By Felix Njini
Namibia is months away from having a specialist military unit that will combat poachers killing its rhinos and elephants as the southwest African country considers a plan to deploy drones to support rangers on the ground.
“The trend of poaching has worried government,” Romeo Muyunda, a Ministry of Environment and Tourism, said from the capital, Windhoek. “We are strengthening our presence on the ground.”
The unit, drawn from the army, police and intelligence forces, will probably be in place early next year, Muyunda said in e-mailed replies to questions. National park officials often come across the decomposing carcasses of rhino and elephants in poorly patrolled areas, long after those responsible have disappeared, he said.
Poachers have killed 22 rhinos in Namibia this year and at least 76 elephants, Muyunda said. The proposal to deploy drones is awaiting final government approval. Dehorning of rhino in a bid to deter poaching that is at unprecedented levels started more than a month ago.
Namibia has one of the largest populations of black rhinos, which are under threat from those who kill the animals and sell their horns chiefly for use in Asian medicine, according to the WWF. About 1,750 black rhinos live in Namibia, out of a global population of 4,800, along with 469 white rhinos, according to Save The Rhino and WWF.
“We are still working on setting up the anti-poaching unit, working on the structures, but this involves money and we need to find that,” Muyunda said.