Government says it has brought poaching-especially that of rhinos and elephants-under control in the national parks, the problem now lies within private farms.
Environment and Tourism announced last year that poachers will face fines of up to N$25 million, as well as lengthy prison terms.
The giants’ tusks and horns are being sold by illegal international trade syndicates.
Elephant poaching is now among private game farms’ biggest concerns, after managing to record a drastic decrease in rhino and elephant poaching in its national parks, government is now looking at ways to help private farmers.
But in recent years, the more law enforcement agencies reduced poaching activities within national parks, the more they have been forced to move on to their next targets – private farms.
“We have the situation under control now…the problem is on the private farms now,” said a worried Pohamba Shifeta, environment and tourism minister, during an interview with this publication this week.
Regarding claims that the global syndicates that are behind the poaching activities have now turned to trophy hunting and taxidermists to legally acquire the tusks and horns which are then processed and shipped out, Shifeta downplayed the likelihood of such a move.
He said he is happy with the operations of taxidermists in the country and that they are all complying with the laws in place.
Rhinos are killed for their horns which can fetch around US$60 000(N$840 000 current exchange rate) per kilogram, with some reports quoting as much as US$100 000(N$1.4 million) per kilogram.
“Trophy hunting is a very expensive exercise because it can cost you between N$1.5 million to N$2 million to hunt an elephant or rhino, so why would someone pay all that money just to make little money when they sell the products? You will see that rich people are the ones who mostly do trophy hunting, so I do not see why they would want to sell the animal products. Most of them use the products as displays in their homes and offices,” said Shifeta.
He also explained that the global ivory community has systems in place to ensure that all game products moved across the world are tracked through serial numbers.
Private game reserves are an easy target for poachers because of the reduced security measures in some reserves as far as security personnel are concerned.
Epako Safari Game Lodge in the vicinity of Omaruru was one of the poachers’ target last year.
Workers on the farm discovered the carcass of the pregnant rhino cow with both horns hacked off. He said the remains of the dead animal were found about three kilometres from the lodge buildings.
According to media reports, preliminary investigations indicate the rhino was killed about five days before it was found and that footprints around the carcass indicated that at least four poachers were on the scene where the horns were hacked off. The owner of the rhino indicated that he suffered a loss of at least N$600 000.
At the end of 2016, two rhinos were killed and two more were wounded when a gang of poachers shot the animals on a private game farm close to Gobabis. One of the animals was also a pregnant cow. During that incident the farmer suffered a loss of more than N$3 million.
Poachers are not deterred by the challenging task of hunting down an elephant and hacking deep into its skull to remove its tusks.
Poaching has become a headache for SADC over the last two decades.
In 2002, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, integrated their parks to form the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Conservation Area through an international treaty signed.
Joint wildlife policing initiatives were being implemented by the three countries, sharing information and intelligence that has, officials say, led to many arrests and a decrease in rhino poaching.