WINDHOEK - Despite the hefty fines of up to N$5 million or 25 years jail term for elephants and rhino poaching, Namibian officials have recorded 25 cases of rhino and 16 of elephant hunted illegally countrywide this year alone.
Late last year, a total number of 27 rhinos were poached compared to 60 in 2016 and 95 in 2015. Equally, 12 elephants have been poached since January last year compared to 101 in 2016 and 49 a year before.
Although the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has applauded particularly the whistleblowers who tip off the anti-poaching unit regarding such incidences, the ministry says poaching still remains a grave concern.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, the ministry’s spokesperson Romeo Muyunda revealed exclusively that even though the numbers show a decline in poaching cases, any amount of poaching remains a concern to the ministry.
“For as long as rhino horns and elephant tusks have a market, we should continuously sharpen our strategies to anticipate the syndicates’ next move and prevent poaching,” he noted. Equally, he said the ministry is happy with the contribution of the reward scheme which they introduced in 2015 towards the fight against poaching.
He revealed that a whopping amount of N$60 000 is paid to informers who give information to the police on cases of rhinos and elephants poached.According to him, the ministry’s collaboration with members of the public is crucial in addressing this challenge.
So far, he stated the public continue to respond to the government’s call and has assisted in apprehending poaching suspects. He says this is a clear testimony that Namibia can no longer tolerate the selfish plundering of its natural resources.
“We commend this patriotic behaviours and urge the public to continue engaging the Namibian police with any information that will lead to the arrest of a suspected poacher. Even though there are financial incentives for this, we encourage that the public should report such cases because they are law abiding citizens,” he encouraged.
Although the incentive or reward was introduced in 2015, Muyunda could however not avail figures the ministry has paid out so far. Asked how the ministry verifies that the information given is correct before payment is made, he said every case is followed up based on available strategies. Hence, he clarified that the N$60 000 will only be paid when a successful arrest has been made based on the information provided.
Further, he added it should also be noted that their strategies prioritises the safety of the informers, as they remain anonymous.
Regarding the kind of wildlife species that are paid for by the ministry, he said the N$60 000 is only applicable for rhinos and elephants poached.
However, he was quick to say there are other payment provisions made for other species like Pangolins, crocodiles and buffaloes depending of the value of those animals. A source indicated informers get at least N$10 000 for information leading to an arrest on buffaloes hunted illegally.He advised the public who might have any information of other wildlife species that have been poached to contact the Environment Ministry to determine the incentives to be paid based on their value as they differ.
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of rhinos that have fallen at the hands of poachers, who sell their prized horns to Asia where the horns are apparently used as an ingredient in medicine.