…Namibia’s weak airport security exposed
South African media yesterday reported that a Chinese national – in transit from Namibia – was arrested for possessing in rhino horn worth nearly R7 million at the OR Tambo International Airport.
It is reported that South African authorities recovered the 18 rhino horns weighing 43 kilograms during a routine search. The 28-year-old man was on his way to Hong Kong and is scheduled to appear in a South African court today.
“Upon arrival, they discovered that the Chinese national had with him, in his travelling bags, about 43kg rhino horns, which were counted to be a number of 18,” reported South African media outlet Eye Witness News.
The arrest comes a day after government revealed that seven rhino carcasses were discovered in the Etosha National Park this month – all seven were confirmed to have been killed by poachers.
The total number of rhinos poached this year has now reached 45.
Just a day before that revelation, Cabinet approved the use of drones in the fight against poaching.
Namibia and other African countries are experiencing unprecedented levels of rhino and elephant poaching through which poachers rake in millions, according to the chief public relations officer, Romeo Muyunda on Wednesday.
Poachers are raking in up to U$70 000 per kilogramme of rhino horn, which explains why the endangered beast remains on the receiving end of illegal hunting in the country.
The latest figure means the improvement the country saw last year is short-lived, when eight rhinos were poached in 2015, down from 24 in 2014.
In the north-eastern region of Namibia, 91 elephants were poached in 2015 compared to 78 in 2014. To date, 69 elephants have been poached this year mainly in the Zambezi and Kavango regions.
Namibia’s ivory has found its way into the global illegal wildlife trade networks, worth roughly US$19 billion each year.
Illegal wildlife trade is the world’s fourth largest illegal international trade – after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.
Government has been proactive and has aggressively tackled poaching through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. However, the current situation indicates more needs to be done. The global wildlife trade body CITES estimates the Namibian black rhino population at about 1 800 to 1 900, or about 40% out of a worldwide population of 4 ,885 animals, including the last free-roaming southwestern black rhinos of southern Kunene. The largest concentration of black rhinos was in the Etosha National Park – was, because the extent of poaching in the park of rhinos, and of all other game, has only recently become apparent. An aerial block count to verify Etosha figures has repeatedly been postponed due to a lack of funding, though the ministry recently acquired a new helicopter. One helicopter was, however, inadequate for patrolling Etosha’s 22 000 square kilometres; two fixed-wing aircraft previously used appeared to have become unserviceable for lack of maintenance. Muyunda expressed further concern saying wildlife trafficking is becoming a million-dollar criminal enterprise that has expanded to more than just a conservation concern. “The increasing involvement of organised crime in poaching and wildlife trafficking, threatens peace, strengthens illicit trade routes, destabilises economies and communities that depends on wildlife or their livelihood,” he said.
Muyunda urged the public to assist the Ministry during the investigation on the discovery of the carcasses, by the Namibian Police Force and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
He said there is a N$60 000 bounty to anyone who can provide information which may lead to the arrest of all those involved in these illegal activities still stands.
Last year, 22 people were arrested for poaching, or possession of rhino horns and elephant tusks, according to police statistics.
While by March this year, the number of people arrested in connection with poaching or possession of rhino horns and elephant tusks stood at eight.
Muyunda strongly cautioned prospective poachers to refrain from any ill-intentioned activities of rhino and elephant poaching.
More than 140 000 of Africa’s savannah elephants were killed for their ivory between 2007 and 2014, wiping out almost a third of their population, and one elephant is still being killed by poachers every 15 minutes on average. The price of ivory has soared threefold since 2009, leading conservationists to fear the survival of the species is at risk.