Over the last few months we have read and continue to read about the illicit and systematic killing of our endangered animals in the tourist areas of Etosha and Kunene region for their horns.
These killings, properly called poaching, are starting to frustrate our tourism industry, which was identified as a critical sector by our government in the struggle for economic empowerment.
It is alleged that the killings are primarily motivated and inspired by our friends from Asia who have an insatiable appetite for horns for various reasons. Stories related are that these Asians go as far as courting our officials in dark offices and offering them money under the table to point out where these animals are.
Our wild life animal population, namely of rhinos and elephants, was very high compared to now. Kunene was known as the ‘mother of communal conservation’ and the conservancy model boomed, which was aimed at improving the quality of life of locals through tourism and related activities. We had fully fledged and proper functioning institutions like the ministry of environment and tourism and non-government organisations at the helm of conservation. Our locals in conservancies enjoyed responsible wildlife-based tourism models.
I can’t help but notice that lately these institutions have been showing symptoms of fatigue for one reason or another. They appear to have taken lackadaisical attempts at addressing conservation and Namibia has now become an easy target for poaching.
Even in some conservancies, stories are related to us that the conservancy committee members are busy with enriching themselves through encouragement of trophy hunting on endangered rhinos and elephants, as well as other game without careful consideration and not giving mother nature a chance to recover.
I recently came back from the Kunene region where we drove for a considerable distance without even seeing a moving jackal or giraffe next to the road. This is because conservancy committee members are killing all the game without doing proper game counts to analyse if there is indeed an urgency to shoot some game. These are issues bureaucrats in some government offices are not even aware of because they sit for the whole day in air-conditioned offices and are oblivious of what’s happening on the ground.
Let me be clear on the matter of poaching. Our problem of poaching coincided with Namibia giving thousands of residency visas to the Chinese. China is one of the biggest markets in the world with a high demand for horns. A dear friend says: “Consumerism is what brings the world to the brink.”
China apparently does not have wildlife in their country from which they can get horns, therefore they send their citizens outside to access this commodity through an illegal network.
These Chinese are courting our underpaid rangers and officials to point out where these rhinos and elephants can be found in the most unsuspecting moments. Even some unemployed Namibians, confronted by poverty, will in the near future see poaching as a lucrative activity from which they can gain money. The country has failed to address the socio-economic plight of its citizens and it culminates in a situation whereby locals partake in illegal activities like poaching because they wake up on a hungry stomach and sleep on a hungry stomach.
Poaching has become an insidious disease that threatens our good economy. This is no longer an ‘I’ thing but a ‘we’ thing. I would therefore like to urge young people from all walks of life to stand up aggressively against poaching as leaders of tomorrow.