THE TOURISM minister has accused some traditional leaders and businesspeople of being used as middlemen by poaching syndicates.
Namibia has recorded 62 cases of rhino poaching so far this year. Of these, 54 were discovered in the Etosha National Park.
Addressing the media in Windhoek yesterday Pohamba Shifeta said the ministry had discovered that some of the members of syndicates supply Namibians with weapons to use in poaching.
Shifeta also said between June and yesterday, 40 Namibians and an Angolan have been arrested in connection with poaching.
He said 29 people were arrested in areas close to Etosha National Park like Onamutanga, Uutsathima, Iitapa and Otyenoa.
According to Shifeta, most of the suspects are Namibians and are related to one another except for the Angolan. So far, the minister said, 22 suspects have been charged with illegal hunting of rhinos while the other seven were released because of lack of evidence. The 22 will return to court on 30 July.
Shifeta also said two other suspects were arrested in connection with two rhinos that were killed in Iitapa village in 2008.
He said 32 rifles – including one that had its serial number erased – were confiscated from people at Etosha National Park and surrounding areas.
On 12 June, the minister said, five people were arrested between Warmquelle and Sesfontein in connection with the killing of a rhino that was found dehorned at Omatendeka Conservancy in the Kunene region.
Shifeta noted that one elephant was shot and wounded by poachers in Bwabwata National Park on 23 June 2015 and had to be destroyed by ministry of environment staff.
“The poachers got away but police confiscated an AK-47 and an R1 rifle and ammunition,” he said.
On Wednesday, two suspects were arrested in Erongo for poaching in the area, while three others were arrested in the Palmwag area for another poaching incident.
Shifeta said police are still pursuing some cases in an operation led by Oshana regional commander Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa.
“From the above arrests it is clear that local communities are being employed to conduct illegal hunting in the national parks and wildlife areas,” Shifeta said. “Declare your weapons before you enter the park to prevent inconveniences. This is one of the measures put up.”
Kashihakumwa told The Namibian yesterday that they were trying very hard to stop poaching. He also expressed satisfaction with the results so far.