WINDHOEK – Namibia needs approximately N$105 million monthly to fully protect her population of more than 3 500 rhinos, including those in private ownership.
This was revealed by Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta who was in London on Thursday to Friday for the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference.
Namibia wants to dispose of its stockpiles of rhino and elephant products on international legal markets.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism disclosed in an exclusive interview with New Era recently that the current size of Namibia’s ivory stockpile is 69 391.71kg (69.4 tonnes) valued at N$125.48 million. It also revealed that out of the 69.4 tonnes, a total quantity of 29 964.64 kg (29.9 tonnes) represented legal ivory and 39 427.07 kg (39.4 tonnes) illegal ivory.
The 29 964.64 kg of the legal ivory stockpile is valued at N$54.2 million while the 39 427.07 kg illegal ivory are worth N$71.3 million.
The ministry could not provide figures on rhino horns due to security reasons.
The ministry said the money generated through the sale of the stockpile will be reinvested in conservation through the Game Product Trust Fund.
Namibia last auctioned off its ivory stockpile in 2008 along with its neighbouring states.
Over U$15 million (approximately N$216 million) for African elephant conservation and local communities have been raised through the sale of 102 tonnes of stockpiled ivory, according to CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Through four auctions, conducted under the strict supervision of the CITES Secretariat, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe sold the 102 tonnes of ivory to Chinese and Japanese accredited traders for a total amount of U$15 400 000.
According to CITES, the average price paid was U$157 per kg, which contrasts sharply with the prices allegedly paid for ivory that has entered the market illegally over the past year (U$750-U$850).
The ivory sold was all from legal, government-owned stocks; most of it from elephants that died of natural causes during the last 20 years or were culled before 1994 as part of a population control programme.
Shifeta said poaching is negatively impacting populations of the endangered species and it is also damaging the wildlife-based tourism sector, which generates significant rural employment and foreign exchange, and is a sector which is increasingly contributing to gross domestic product (GDP).
According to him, Namibia thus also considers wildlife crime as an economic crime.
“Criminals involved in illegal wildlife trade are enticing poor rural people into a life of crime, which has significant negative social impacts on their immediate and extended family members when they are imprisoned,” Shifeta noted.
He said countering wildlife crime represents significant opportunity costs to the country with time, energy and finances being diverted away from other more positive conservation and socio-economic development interventions.
Equally, he maintained illegal wildlife trade can lead to collateral damage from well-intended but misdirected efforts to counter wildlife trafficking such as the closing down of legal markets, alienation of communities and philosophical conflict with neighbours and the international community.
Following the sudden onset of rhino and elephant poaching, Namibia has responded through a number of measures to curb these illegal activities.
In 2017, Namibia amended two pieces of legislation, namely, the Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975 and the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act of 2009, to increase the fines and imprisonment sentences, related to poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
The fine related to possession of rhino, elephant and pangolin products has been increased from N$20 000 to N$15 million and or an imprisonment period of five to 15 years.
The fine related to dealing or trading in rhino, elephant or pangolin products has been increased from N$200 000 to N$25 million and or an imprisonment of 20 to 25 years.
Additionally, the two Acts make provision for any foreign national found guilty under these Acts to be declared persona non grata after serving her or his sentence or after paying his fine.
In this context, he questioned the impact and role of general trade and attempted demand reduction actions for example on black rhino populations which, since trade in rhino horn was banned by CITES in 1975, have declined relentlessly and catastrophically.
“We therefore call for a thorough review of the theory of change that assumes that restrictions in trade and reductions in demand will help conserve a species,” he said.