WINDHOEK: Police yesterday confirmed they have charged journalist John Grobler and Nrupesh Soni, the founder and owner of Namibia Travel and Tourism Forum, for trespassing. The pair on Saturday afternoon flew a drone over a farm in Gobabis, owned by GoHunt Namibia Safaris. This is deemed illegal if no permission was obtained from the owner of the property. The Elizabeth Margaret Steyn (EMS) Foundation, a global wildlife animal rights group, has condemned Namibia over the treatment of the two men.
Grobler was allegedly investigating a controversial elephant auction, while Soni said he was assisting with flying the drone. They were filming footage at the farm where 23 wild, captured elephants with two newborn calves are allegedly being kept. Grobler said this shows that the cows were pregnant when captured.
Grobler and Soni face charges of trespassing and hunting of specially protected game without a permit. “It is further alleged that the suspects used the drone to wilfully disturb the specially protected game without a permit or written authority issued by the environment ministry,” the police said.
Grobler, however, said for the trespassing charge to be valid, they would have had to be arrested on the farm and not in Gobabis, which is about 120km away. He added that he formally requested access to the elephants in person from the owner last Monday and was told that he had to ask the ministry. The ministry’s office based in Gobabis however insisted that the owner had to give permission.
The EMS Foundation said it is concerned about the lack of transparency by the Namibian government on the said auction and does not condone government’s heavy-handed approach towards Grobler and Soni.
“The capture of free roaming wild elephants is a matter of national interest, general public concern and importance. This is a subject of legitimate global news interest,” it said.