WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Environment and Tourism disclosed in an exclusive interview with New Era on Thursday 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 these legal ivory stockpile is valued at N$54.2 million while the 39 427.07 kg illegal ones are worth N$71.3 million.
These figures exclude rhino horns, which the ministry could not provide for what it says, are security reasons.
“The value of the ivory is determined based on the weight category and the quality of the tusk. Tusks with high weight and good quality have high value. While tusks with low weight and poor quality have lower value,” the ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda noted.
Asked what Namibia plans to do with these huge stockpiles, Muyunda said the ministry’s future plan is to get permission to sell off the stock piles.
“Our constitution provides for utilisation of natural resources to benefit our citizens. Any other form of disposal will be a waste and against that constitutional provision,” he said.
According to him, the money generated through the sale of the stock piles will be reinvested into conservation through the Game Product Trust Fund.
Namibia last sold or auctioned off its ivory stockpile in 2008 with its neighbouring states.
Over U$15 million (approximately N$216 million) for African elephant conservation and local communities have been raised through the sales 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. The sales were unanimously authorised by the 172 CITES member States in July 2007.
Wildlife trafficking continues unabated with 29 black and white rhinoceros that were reported poached during 2018 already.
Eight of the animals are white rhinoceros, of which six were poached on privately owned properties and two in Etosha National Park.
Of the 21 black rhinoceros poached, 13 were killed in Etosha National Park and eight on custodian properties.
Meanwhile, a study involving scientists from Cardiff University, who also shared their findings with Namibia, concluded that the country must adopt a new strategy for conservation if it wants the black rhinoceros saved from extinction, because of the poaching crisis.
An international team of researchers for the first time compared the genes of all living and extinct black rhinoceros populations and found a massive decline in genetic diversity, with 44 of 64 genetic lineages no longer in existence.
The new data suggest that the future looks bleak for the black rhinoceros unless the conservation of genetically distinct populations is made a priority.
Professor Mike Bruford from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences made several observations with regard to the findings.
“Our findings reveal that hunting and habitat loss has reduced the evolutionary potential of the black rhinoceros dramatically over the last 200 years.
“The magnitude of this loss in genetic diversity really did surprise us – we did not expect it to be so profound.”
He indicated that the decline in the species’ genetic diversity threatened to compromise the rhino’s potential to adapt in the future, especially as the climate and African landscape changed due to increased pressure from man.
Escalating poaching threatens the rhinos’ recovery as rhinoceros horn has attained an unprecedented and steadily rising value.