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41 wildlife crime convictions in three months (Namibia)

Mashazi Mahoto, New Era | September 17, 2019

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WINDHOEK: Forty-one suspects have been convicted for wildlife crimes between April and June this year, says prosecutor general, Advocate Martha Imalwa.

Imalwa was speaking during the awareness workshop on wildlife legislation and prosecution in Windhoek on Friday. She revealed that the total number of cases related to wildlife crimes between April and June this year was 292. Only three of the accused persons were acquitted, with two being discharged. Eight cases were struck off the roll for either taking too long or because investigations were ongoing.

A further 229 of the cases had been pushed to the third quarter of the year and only one is being heard in the High Court.

Speaking at the same event, Pohamba Shifeta, Minister of Environment and Tourism, said people should refrain from poaching or they will have to face the long arm of the law.

“We need to treat wildlife crime as a serious crime, and work to ensure that enforcement efforts adequately protect wildlife and curb the illegal hunting of wildlife and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products,” he said.

He added that an updated booklet on the value of wildlife products will soon be made available to assist prosecutors to weigh on the punishment.

Deputy Commissioner Barry de Klerk, head of Nampol’s protected resources unit, said poaching is a continuous threat which is also an economic crime that operates across borders.

Rhinos and elephants are the most targeted, though lately pangolins have become the world’s most trafficked for their skin, scales and even live ones.

On rhino conservation, he said: “Dehorning the rhinos is still an option. However, a high number of pre-emptive arrests have saved a lot of rhinos from being poached. With an increased presence of law enforcement in national parks, poachers have begun to shift to the less protected private rhino farms.”

Since the beginning of this year, 28 rhinos have been poached nationally, a lower number when compared to the figures at the same time in 2018. The national figures of elephant poaching have been reducing gradually from 101 in 2016 to 27 in 2018 whereas only 11 cases have been reported in 2019 so far.

Blue Rhino taskforce team which was formed in mid-2018 and comprises the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Namibian Defence Force, Namibian Police Force, the financial intelligence centre and other stakeholders has been extended to run until April 2020. In just one month after Operation Blue Rhino was commissioned, 23 arrests were made of which nine were repeat wildlife crime offenders.

“You arrest the guy today, he goes through the judiciary processes and he is released on bail and he is arrested again for the same crime,” De Klerk bemoaned.