Saturday 17 April 2021
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Poaching not a crisis yet – Govt

Government seems to be making strides in the anti-poaching war, but despite that perception and millions pumped into wildlife management, poaching is still on the rise. This week two Chinese nationals were arrested after they were caught attempting to flee the country with elephant tusks, but Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta seems unfazed by the poaching revelations. He instead confidently indicates that “the fact that we are arresting them shows that our tactics are working”. The incident comes days after the Chinese Embassy in Namibia condemned poaching activities and expressed disappointment over poaching activities carried out by Chinese nationals in Namibia. The embassy vowed to support Namibia’s actions to combat poaching and the Chinese business community even donated N$30 000 to support the country’s anti-poaching drive.
Shifeta called for strict bail conditions for those arrested with ivory to deter others from following in their footsteps. Environmentalists have also called on courts to deny anyone caught with ivory bail, but Shifeta is not buying such rhetoric. “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, hence the decision on whether bail should be granted or not lies with the prosecuting authorities and the amount of evidence they have at their disposal,” he said. The two Chinese nationals were detained on Wednesday after they allegedly attempted to smuggle elephant tusks that were cut into small pieces and stuffed into instant coffee tins. The accused, Xue Xinxi (47) and Zhang Rue (60), will appear in court today.
The two suspects were on their way to Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA). HKIA was recently in the news after another Chinese national was caught with 18 rhino horns worth almost N$7 million by the Hawks in South Africa after he was let through though the airport scanners in Namibia had detected the illegal exports. Shifeta said plans are underway to ensure that Chinese nationals are searched rigorously at police checkpoints to avoid any smuggling of ivory. “Our tactics are working, this week we arrested one of the kingpins and I can assure you that the authorities will continue doing their work to protect our wildlife. We will even go to the Ministry of Trade to scrutinise the records of Chinese businesses to see the type of businesses they registered when they came to Namibia and whether it corresponds with the type of trading activities they are engaged in,” he said.
Shifeta is confident that the poaching activities are manageable. The Patriot last week reported that the well-visited Etosha National Park has become the country’s poaching haven and instead of raking in millions from the park through tourism activities, Government is now forced to pump in millions to protect the wildlife. All eyes are on Etosha, as the epicentre of the war on rhino poaching. In October, seven rhino carcasses were found in Etosha National Park, bringing the number of poached rhinos to 47 for 2016, official statistics indicate. Villages surrounding the park such as Onamatanga, Utsatsima and Namatanga have been identified by the police as the most poaching-prone regions. The killing is happening on such a massive scale that already this year rhinos are being shot at a rate of four per month in the country.
In 2014, the retail price of a whole rhino horn was commonly pegged at around US$60 000(N$840 000 current exchange rate) per kilogram, with some reports of as much as US$100 000 (N$1.4 million) per kilogram being charged. In its zeal to seal national parks and curb poaching activities, Cabinet recently approved the use of Unnamed Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for wildlife protection and law enforcement in national parks and other areas with high concentration of wildlife.  Stopping the killing of elephants for their tusks could add some US$25 million (23 million euros) to Africa’s annual tourism income, more than offsetting the anti-poaching spending. While the figure pales in comparison to the estimated value of the black market ivory trade in China, it represents about a fifth of tourist income for game parks in 14 countries, where half of Africa’s elephants are located, the study said. The lost economic benefits that elephants could deliver to African countries via tourism are substantial, and these benefits exceed the costs necessary to halt elephant declines in east, southern and west Africa.

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