Monday 12 April 2021
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Namibia committed to combatting poaching

African black rhinos for years have suffered what can be termed as a dramatic population decline between the years 1970 to 1993. During this time period poaching seemed unstoppable, resulting in about 96 percent of the rhinos being killed for the purpose of fuelling the illegal trade in wildlife believed to have been used for traditional Asian medicine.
With only 2300 black rhinos to have persisted in 1990, Namibia finds itself among the countries that have fallen prey to being vulnerable to rhino poaching, specifically in remote north-west communal rangelands.
The country is said to have been combatting poaching of desert-adapted black rhinos across the Erongo and Kunene region since 1982 with the formation of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT). SRT was formed with the aim to reduce poaching and to save black rhinos from extinction.
Namibia is known to host about 34 percent of the largest remaining free ranging black rhino population in the world, however the country must remain mindful on the topic of rhino poaching. This is despite the fact that poaching statistics in Namibia show a downward trend.
Earlier this year, Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta revealed that during 2017, 27 rhinos were poached when compared to 60 in 2016 and 95 in 2015.
During an event held at the British Embassy in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, Simson Uri-Khob, CEO of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT ) highlighted that another one of SRT aims since its inception was to enhance rhino security in Namibia by monitoring and researching the rhino population. Uri-Khob stated that through the trust, Namibia has managed, albeit in a limited fashion to keep its rhinos safe and has further ensured  the successful breeding of the animals.
He explained that the black rhinos found in north-west Namibia are the only rhinos in the world, who live on communal land without formal conservation status.
“Rhino numbers within this key population have almost quadrupled over the last three decades. This however would not have been possible if we did not have the unwavering assistance from the Namibian police, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, local communities, traditional leaders, stakeholders such as NNF, IRDNC Namibia, our partners in the UK, Tusk Trust, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Save the Rhino International” said Uri-Khob.
He further explained that SRT has managed to combine animals that are surviving at the very edge of their natural range by ultimately enabling rhinos to return to their historic home territories.
“This has also provided benefits to the community through conservation and tourism, as the combination of rhino based tourism on community land has led to improved conservation measures by local people who now have a vested interest in conserving their livelihood resources” he stated.
Uri-Khob further highlighted that conserving the rhinos, by combatting the poaching crisis is an awfully difficult job and requires field trackers who are committed and determined for such a tough uphill battle.
“The field workers should note that they have to navigate an extremely harsh terrain for a cycle of 21 days, during this period they are away from their families. They do this on foot in the field where they face the presence and encounters of lions, elements of nature, elephants as well as armed poachers” he said.
Furthermore, Uri-Khob highlighted a much bigger need for funding, because being an NGO, SRT is said to be 100 percent reliant on the support it receives from its donors.
British High Commissioner to Namibia Kate Airey noted that tackling the illegal wildlife trade is important to the United Kingdom (UK), just as it is to Namibia and many other international partners.
Airey highlighted the importance of other countries in adapting and changing to respond to global threats.
“We now know that the gangs that traffic illegal wildlife goods are the same criminals that traffic people and smuggle drugs. This is why the UK sees tackling illegal wildlife trade as a security issue that needs strong international collaboration to defeat it” Airey concluded.

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