The poaching war has become a waiting game, with more long-term surveillance and improved teamwork by law enforcement agencies leaving entire syndicates at risk, but government is of the view that poaching can only be eliminated if kingpins are targeted.
Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu, said the preferred model of fighting poaching is joint investigations with countries harbouring ivory markets.
“The ideal situation is for us [Namibia] to have a zero poaching rate, but at this stage we might be daydreaming. I would like to see the day when the actual kingpins are caught, and before that happens, I will have difficulties believing the efforts of our partners,” Nambahu told this publication this week.
Although he said poaching in Namibia is yet to reach crisis levels, Namibia cannot afford to sit back idly.
“I will be happy to hear all leaders raising their voices against poaching; this is also one way to preserve their credibility because it will prevent people from making allegations against them.”
Nambahu recently met the Chinese Ambassador to Namibia, an occasion he used to underscore the cordial relations that Namibia and China enjoys with strong roots stemming from the years of the liberation struggle and that the Namibian government remain committed at strengthening the existing bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
With regards to poaching of wildlife in the country, Nambahu at the time said that the Namibian will never think that poaching actions are condoned at government level but criminal actions are by individuals.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has invited its Chinese counterpart to be part of the anti-poaching drive in Namibia.
However, the Ministry faces a number of challenges that include control at borderlines with neighbouring countries, lack of resources and capacity building.
Nambahu also challenged those who claim that government officials are part of poaching syndicates to come forth with clear-cut proof.
“People are just talking that our officials are involved in these syndicates but no one is presenting concrete evidence,” he said.
With multiple poaching reports lately, Nambahu maintains that the increased reporting about poaching activities is not a sign of “more poaching taking place”.
“Poaching started even before the colonial days. From the time that we [Ministry] bought helicopters we have seen that the detection rate increased because there were areas we could not access before the procurement of the helicopters. Lately, there has also been much interest into poaching from the public,” he said.
He further explained: “It’s the same like domestic violence during the pre-independence era. At that time women would get beaten by their partners but people will not know of it, but nowadays it is as if domestic violence increased just because people are more aware and there are systems in place for recourse.”
Another reason, according to Nambahu, why Namibians should join the war against poaching is to ensure intergenerational equity.
“Intergenerational equity is key because it reminds us that we must use resources wisely today for the sake of our future generations.
“We are working to enhance networks that is the only way we can stop this. Our partners should come on board and do their part. It is not in their interest to have their names linked to poaching syndicates. We have allegations that some of these things [poaching] are state-sponsored but we reject such claims in the absence of proof.
“Even when they detect that someone was attempting to smuggle ivory products from Namibia into their country they must report it to us. We need more judicial cooperation and extradition agreements to tackle this,” he said.