US donates R23.4m to combat wildlife trafficking, poaching In Namibia
By Melania Simeon
Windhoek -The United States ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, yesterday announced a donation of R23.4 million grant aimed at combatting wildlife trafficking and poaching in Namibia.
Daughton said Namibia is a country known around the world for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife where tourists flock to by the thousands every year for a chance to see rhinos, cheetahs and elephants roaming wild and free in the Land of the Brave, but in the last few years, Namibia has begun to confront a new kind of environmental challenge.
He said the US State Department had therefore made it a commitment to join the fight against wildlife trafficking in the country.
“Poaching in one form or another has been around for decades, but trafficking in endangered wildlife products, particularly rhino horn and elephant tusk, has increased sharply in Namibia in just the last few years, consequently we want to help Namibia duplicate its previous successes of securing the safety of wildlife animals using the same kind of combined effort aimed specifically at combating wildlife trafficking in Namibia,” he said.
A multi-sector project that was established and made possible by this new grant is aimed at strengthening collaboration among protected area officials, communal conservancies, law enforcement, and freehold rhino custodian farms with the goal of improving wildlife crime detection, case development, and arrest and conviction rates.
This project will capitalise on a series of existing wildlife crime response strategies developed by the Namibian government over the past few years, leading to a draft National Strategy on Wildlife Protection and Law Enforcement.
“This project, while large and varied, is just part of a larger effort underway in Namibia to address wildlife trafficking. One very important step taken recently was the National Assembly’s decision to increase penalties for wildlife trafficking to R$25 million in fines and 25 years in jail. Successfully combatting wildlife trafficking in Namibia will take that kind of effort and more, which is why the grant that we have announced today embraces a combined approach,” Daughton said.
Namibia was initially spared during the first few years of the present wildlife crime crisis, but since 2013, rhino and elephant poaching has dramatically increased. Actual poaching incidents are difficult to verify as finding carcasses in the vast areas where rhinos and elephants occur takes enormous amounts of resources and search effort.
This was revealed by Jordaania Andima, information assistant of the US Embassy in Namibia.
“However, known figures reflect a worrying trend, with incidents rising to 342 between 2012 and 2017. Most rhino poaching to date has occurred in Etosha National Park and in communal conservancies and tourism concession areas in northwest Namibia. There is now a growing trend of rhinos been poached in commercial farm land,” noted Andima.
Speaking on behalf of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Chris Weaver expressed endless gratitude towards the US government for funding the multi sector project.
“I would like to thank the United States government for funding this important project. It is a needed and timely investment in Namibia’s future and we look forward to being a partner in its implementation.” he said.