Windhoek — A whopping 103 rhinos were poached in the past decade – 95 of them black rhinos – with most cases recorded this year in Etosha National Park.
Of the103 pachyderms slaughtered the remaining eight were white rhinos, stated the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
MET last month conducted laboratory tests to determine the cause of death of the rhino and elephant carcasses discovered from 2014 to date in Etosha National Park and other parks in the country and the results were released on Tuesday.
Environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta revealed that the results for the period indicated 39 of the rhinos were poached and 29 died from natural causes.
As for elephants, he said 23 animals have been poached this year.
Of the 23 elephants poached, 21 were poached in the Bwabwata National Park and two in Mashi Conservancy in the Zambezi Region.
Shifeta said some arrests have thus far been made in connection with the poaching.
Namibia has lost scores of endangered rhinos at the hands of poachers and 25 rhinos and 78 elephants were discovered in 2014 countrywide.
This year alone 68 rhino carcasses were discovered, and of that figure, 62 were found in Etosha National Park and four in Kunene.
Another 21 carcasses have been found in Etosha but these have been confirmed to have died from natural mortalities, especially in fighting for territory.
Meanwhile, 310 rhinos, including both black and white rhinos have died of natural causes between 2005 to date.
Shifeta said strategic measures such as more manpower on the ground including law enforcement have been put in place to curb poaching in the country.
There has been huge speculation that MET officials are involved in the escalating poaching.
Shifeta, however, could not confirm nor deny such claims, saying ballistic tests of rifles which belong to all MET guards in the parks are underway to determine whether such weapons have been used in poaching or not.
“We continue to work with the Namibian Police Force in the investigation of all those cases and much progress has already been made in the arrest of some suspects,” said Shifeta.
He also said MET has taken stringent measures not to allow private guns in the parks any longer, saying the sealing of weapons is not a reliable method as these sealed weapons could easily be used for poaching and then be resealed again.
Regarding the Etosha National Park fence, which is a dire state, he said plans are underway to upgrade it although finances are a huge challenge.
He said MET has since 2011 been constructing an elephant and predator-proof fence covering the entire Etosha boundary.
A 97-km section of the northern boundary fence has been completed.
However, increasing damage to the southern and western fences has been observed in recent years and that is where poaching is rife. Shifeta says this damage is due to activities by both elephants and communities.
The fences are in a very dilapidated state and in need of urgent attention, as criminals now have unlimited access in and out of Etosha.
He said the annual allocation of N$40 million for fencing is insufficient, as it translates into only 20km of fence construction a year.
It means it will take MET more than 10 years to complete the entire 824 km fence, said Shifeta.
Shifeta also said plans are underway to establish an anti-poaching department, but the issue is still with the Public Service Commission (PSC) for consideration.