Namibia intensifies fight against poaching



Date Published
Namibian government has increased the number of soldiers working with the ministry of environment following the discovery of seven rhino carcasses in Etosha National Park and 11 elephants carcasses around the country last week. 
The first deployment was made last year after the environment ministry had requested cabinet to sanction the move.
Cabinet’s approval made last week for additional soldiers was confirmed Wednesday by the environment permanent secretary Simeon Negumbo.
Namibia is home to about half of the world black rhino population, with a large number concentrated in the Etosha National Park.
In May last year, government of Namibia said there were 25,000 elephants while Save the Rhino Trust estimated that there are 1, 750 black rhinos and 470 white rhinos.
Reports said that from 2005 to 2014, 11 cases of rhino poaching were recorded. Police confiscated 18 horns weighing 14.3 kilograms with an estimated value of 599,532 Namibian dollars (49,961 U.S. dollars). Nine suspects were arrested.
Statistics for 2012 show that Namibia suffered losses amounting 3.8 million Namibian dollars through the poaching of 28 elephants in Bwabwata, Madumu and Nkasa Rupara national parks.
Over the years, police have recovered more than 220 elephant tusks with a weight of more than 1,910 kilograms and arrested 105 suspects.
Negumbo said poaching has gone on unabated because of the inadequate number of soldiers deployed to work with the environment ministry.
In September last year, the government of Namibia working with a local businessman, Henri Slabbert who owns the Next Generation Conservation Trust mooted the idea of deploying drones to fight poachers.
At the time, Slabbert said considering the damaging effects of poaching to tourism and the hunting industries in Namibia already, it is like a small-scale war is raging.
“Namibia, Namibians and Namibian jobs are the casualties,” Slabbert said, adding that ecotourism can expect a disastrous drop in income, resulting in many hundreds if not thousands of job losses.
“The trophy hunting industry -responsible for such a huge portion of the Namibian gross domestic product will collapse, resulting in even more job losses, losses of income to lodges, and losses of income,” he said.
During the first phase of the project that cost 5 million Namibian dollars (413, 890 U.S. dollars), Slabbert said 14 unmanned aerial vehicles were deployed to monitor a combined 280, 000 square kilometers.
He said the second phase would expand the area covered, while in the third phase, the number of drones would be increased such.
The drones carry an aerial survey of the most affected areas, especially around Etosha National Park, Kunene and Kavango regions.
When the idea was mooted last year, Slabbert said his trust had found a very cost-effective way to patrol the skies over conservancies and reserves, increasing the effectiveness of the tracking patrols on the ground, aiding capture and prosecution of poachers and defending the tourism and hunting industries which are currently under attack.
According to Slabbert, the drones are equipped with space technology flight frames, technologically advanced radio systems, GPS tracking systems, sophisticated autopilot and flight stability systems and thermal imaging cameras.
A test run for drones was carried out in Etosha in November 2013, when three drones were deployed.
In January this year, however, Slabbert’s trust was looking for 500.000 U.S. dollars to acquire all the 14 drones, while in March, a parliamentary committee recommended that the piece of legislation to improve policing poaching should be speeded up.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration also recommended that the home affairs and immigration ministry should initiate an extradition agreement with Angola to help curb cross-border poaching.
Apart from deploying the army and drones as well as amending the wildlife act, Namibia also relocated black rhinos from poaching hot spots to private-owned conservancies where there is maximum security