WINDHOEK- Wildlife trafficking has become a million-dollar criminal enterprise that has expanded beyond local conservation efforts and game protection.
The increasing involvement of organised crime in poaching and wildlife trafficking promotes corruption, threatens peace, strengthens illicit trade, destabilises economies and communities that depend on wildlife or their livelihoods.
These were the remarks made by Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday during the presentation of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit.
The toolkit will help the authorities to analyse wildlife related crimes.
Shifeta condemned ill-intentioned activities of wildlife crimes and call upon those involved to refrain from such activities with immediate effect or risk their chances of being caught and face the full wrath of the law.
He said illegal wildlife crime has severe economic implications through adverse impacts on tourism, trophy hunting and the conservation of Namibia’s fauna and flora.
He called all Namibian citizens to be vigilant in preserving the precious wildlife by reporting suspicious activities to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism or the Namibian Police Force.
The minister noted unprecedented levels of elephant and rhino poaching as well as the illegal harvesting of timber and uncontrolled logging are being experienced across Africa and Namibia, and these threatens the future of fauna and flora and the entire ecosystems.
Therefore, he said this situation demands a review and update of everyone’s current strategies and measures to curb illegal hunting and harvesting of the country’s timber. “As poaching syndicates increase in size, number and sophistication, it is more important than ever that law enforcement responses are robust, reliable and effective. I say enough is enough, these illegal activities on our wildlife species must come to an end. Those involved must stop the illegal activities now,” he reacted. To combat wildlife crime effectively, he advised it is vital that the law enforcement community deploys all available tools to ensure that the entire crime chain is addressed.
According to him, more effort is required and new approaches needed, including increased use of science and technology.
Shifeta said wildlife crime is similar to other forms of criminality, and the full range of forensic science, expertise and support can potentially be brought to bear from one end of the illicit trade chain to the other.
Aligned with Namibia’s incentive-based conservation paradigm, he said the national Rhino Custodianship Programme was established in 1993, to facilitate the recovery of Namibia’s rhino population while allowing private landowners to become custodians over state-owned rhinos, the right to benefit through eco-tourism.
The minister noted strategic translocations of black rhinos have been carried out since the mid-1990s by the ministry under this programme.
“Wildlife has been moved from areas of high population density in national parks, and later from communal areas and private reserves, to re-establish former rhino ranges. Black rhinos now occur in numerous sub-populations from the Orange River all the way northwards to the Kunene,” he said.
Shifeta said it should be emphasised that conservancies are not areas for wildlife and tourism only, saying they bring additional opportunities for rural people to manage wildlife and tourism alongside their normal activities of livestock management and crop growing.