Bounty for information on poachers increased

Windhoek- Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) and the private sector are offering N$160 000 to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest of poachers in the country.

The MET increased its reward from N$ 30 000 to N$60 000, while the private sector is offering N$100 000.

The offer comes as about 60 rhinos and 23 elephants fell victim to the illegal practice since the beginning of the year countrywide.

At a media briefing this week, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta announced that the ministry has doubled its reward after N$30 000 was offered since October last year.

“MET and the Protected Resources Unit of the Namibian Police has made an offer to the public that anyone that will provide information that will lead to the arrest of these poachers of our wildlife in Etosha National Park and elsewhere will be rewarded with 30 000 Namibian dollars.

“I want to further inform the general public that we have now decided to increase this reward by doubling it. Anyone that will provide the ministry or police with that information will now be rewarded with 60 000 Namibian dollars,” he stressed.

Another N$100 000 is also on offer from the private sector for any information that would lead to the arrest of any poachers, professional hunter and photographer Jofie Lamprecht was quoted as saying by Namibia Press Agency (Nampa).

Role players who donated to the cause include the Next Generation Conservation Trust, Game Rangers Association of Africa, Namibian Chapter, Wildlife Angel, Namibian Professional Hunters Association and private individuals, according to Lamprecht.

The ministry has been working with other law enforcement and conservation agencies to put strategic measures in place to stop the current poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

The short and long-term measures involve issues of human capacity, surveillance, patrolling and detection.

According Shifeta, it is just a matter of time before poachers face the law. The ministry has already made breakthroughs in some cases, especially in the north-eastern parts of the country where about six suspects have also been arrested for the crime.

Other cases are being closely monitored and the ministry is working closely with wildlife authorities in neighbouring countries, the minister said.

Shifeta indicated that the ministry will continue to provide benchmarks that are critical for developing comprehensive, systematic and integrated investigations and intelligence operations for rhino and elephant poaching.

“We continue to invest more resources in combating illegal hunting of our rhinos and elephants. The situation can be described as a priority crime and therefore more resources need to be invested in our efforts to stop these illegal activities,” he added.

Meanwhile, Shifeta said laboratory tests will be carried out to determine the cause of death of 60 rhinos and 23 elephants that have died in Namibia since the beginning of the year.

He said not all the carcasses of the rhinos and elephants that have been found since the beginning of 2015 showed signs of poaching.

“Some could have died of fighting as some carcasses were found with their horns intact. Post-mortems will be done to determine the causes of death and the information collected will be taken to the laboratory. We will then be able to assess every carcass to determine the cause of death,” he said.

At least 54 of the carcasses were found in the Etosha National Park, while six were found in the Palmwag area in the Kunene Region.

Poaching figures have shown that in 2014, 24 rhinos and 78 elephants were killed.

This comes after an extended period of low wildlife crime in Namibia.

Shifeta said there is a clear requirement for a strategy to upgrade law enforcement and wildlife crime prevention capacity in the country, as well as for immediate action that should be part of, and feed into, the overall strategy.

The MET has been working with other law enforcement and conservation agencies to put short and longer-term strategic measures in place to stop the poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

The short and long-term measures involve issues of human capacity, surveillance, patrolling and detection.

Currently, members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) have been deployed in the Etosha National Park, Bwabwata National Park and Palmwag tourism concession area. Aerial patrols are also being conducted by NamPol and the Namibian Defence Force.

The number of security agents in Etosha has been increased from 40 to 140, with additional vehicles deployed to the park.

The minister stressed that poachers have progressed from using hunting rifles to using more advance weapons including automatic rifles.

Shifeta noted that: “This is a transnational network of criminals and those shooting the animals in Namibia probably do not even know the network they are working for, but only the handler. It is connected with the poaching going on in Southern Africa.”

Shifeta gave his assurance that investigations will continue in all areas where illegal hunting of rhinos and elephants were reported.

Meanwhile, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill, which proposes fines for wildlife crimes, is scheduled to go for public consultation in the next two months.

This consultation will take place before the end of June 2015 or early July 2015, said the Minister of Environment and Tourism. “We are in constant discussions with the Prosecutor-General with regard to issues related to courts and prosecution thereof,” he stated.

The Bill aims, “to provide a legal framework to provide for and promote the maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and the biological diversity of Namibia, and the utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of Namibians, both present and future, and to promote the mutually-beneficial co-existence of humans with wildlife to give effect to Namibia’s obligations under relevant international legal instruments and to repeal the Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975”. Reporting by Nampa

May 2015
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