Fines of up to N$25 million await rhino and elephant poachers

Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta took the gloves off in the fight against rhinoceros- and elephant poaching. The minister recently tabled an amendment in the National Assembly of the current Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975.

If becoming legislation, the fines for rhino and elephant poaching will skyrocket from a current N$200 000 to N$25 million. Recurring offenders can face a fine of up to N$50 million. The term of imprisonment will also increase from 20 years to 25 years if the bill is passed in both House of Parliament and signed into law by President Hage Geingob.
In the light of a recent incident at Walvis Bay, where two men, among them a senior officer of the Namibian Defence Force, were nabbed for trying to sell two rhino horns of a freshly poached rhino, Minister Shifeta’s amended legislation is long awaited and much welcomed.
“Unprecedented levels of illegal hunting of elephant and rhinoceros are being experienced across Africa.
Namibia is not an exception. Organized crime syndicates are involved in trafficking of rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks using very complex networks leading to foreign markets. If these current rhinoceros and elephant poaching levels, as well as the trafficking of their products, are not brought under control there will be severe negative impacts on the survival of the two species. Rural poverty will also be enhanced because a high number of our local communities derive income from wildlife through consumptive and non-consumptive use of wildlife.
The current levels of illegal trade and wildlife trafficking also promote cortuption, threaten peace and stability, strengthen illicit trade routes and destabilize economies”, Minister Shifeta told member of parliament on 21 February this year introducing the amendment bill to the National Assembly. The Minister stated foreign syndicates are working with Namibians and plunders Namibia’s elephant- and rhino populations.
From Minister Shifeta’s address it transpired 2016 was the deadliest year for Namibia’s elephant population of 22 000, when it comes to poaching. It shot up from 49 animals lost to poaching in 2015 to 101 in 2016.
“Out of our population of approximately 22 000 elephants, we have lost seventy-eight (78) in 2014, forty-nine (49) in 2015 and hundred and one (101) in 2016. This is particularly concerning as most of the poaching has occurred in Bwabwata National Park and involve foreign nationals working together with Namibians”.
With regard to rhino poaching Minister Shifeta painted an equally cumbersome picture: “Namibia is home to about 2700 rhinoceros, the second largest population of rhinoceros in the world. However, in 2014, we lost sixty-one (61), in 2015, ninety-one (91) and last year 2016, sixty-three (63) animals.
This has negatively impacted our rhinoceros population especially in Etosha National Park.
What is further alarming: the surging poaching situation takes place despite Government mobilising spending and other resources to combat this dreaded phenomenon.

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