Wildlife crime arrests up in 2019 (Namibia)

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The Namibian | April 8, 2020

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Arrests for wildlife crime involving high-value species like elephants, rhinos and pangolins, increased by 36% in 2019 compared to the year before.

This was disclosed in the 2019 combating wildlife crime report, which was jointly compiled by the environment ministry’s intelligence and investigation unit and the Namibian Police’s protected resources division.

“This report is the result of systematic data gathering and reporting on wildlife crime,” noted the director of wildlife and national parks in the ministry of environment, Colgar Sikopo.

In the introduction to the report, Sikopo explained that various stakeholders and partners, including the environment, the safety, and justice ministries as well as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) and others, played a vital role in aggregating the statistics.


Original image as posted by The Namibian: SEIZED … Officers from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibian Defence Force and the Namibian Police, are the foundation of wildlife crime prevention in the country. Photo: 2019 Combatting Wildlife Crime Annual report

He also said these efforts have allowed for more comprehensive statistics to be shared with the media and the public, to the benefit of the country’s anti-poaching efforts.

“This has led to a surge in coverage on wildlife crime, which has facilitated public awareness and understanding, and also serves as a stern warning to criminals,” he said.

The report, which was released last week, indicates that in 2019, more than 360 arrests related to poaching of high-value species were made. One-hundred of these arrests were related to elephants, 160 to pangolins and 112 to rhinos.

In comparison, 267 arrests were made in 2018 – 69 for elephant-related crimes, 120 for pangolins and 84 for rhinos.

Sikopo said wildlife crime remain a serious threat to Namibia’s economy and biodiversity, as well as to local livelihoods.

Last year, 174 cases of wildlife crime involving high-value species were registered.

A total of 92 cases were registered for pangolin-related crimes, 54 for elephant-related crimes and 32 for rhino-related crimes.

The report reveals that the pangolin is by far the most-targeted high-value species with 21% of all registered cases recorded in 2019 involving this nocturnal animal. “These are often trafficked alive, [and] most live animals that are seized can be rehabilitated and released,” the report states.

The Namibian previously reported that of the 121 pangolins confiscated by law enforcement officers in Namibia last year, about 60% were dead.

While Namibia’s increase in the number of arrests for wildlife crime is commendable, only 11% of reported cases related to high-value species last year were finalised. About 77% of cases registered during that period are ongoing while 4% were withdrawn or struck from the roll and 8% are listed as ‘unknown’.

“Cases related to high-value species are often complex, requiring in-depth investigations and a variety of judicial procedures to be finalised. Many cases related to high-value species that were registered during 2019 are thus still ongoing,” the report noted.

According to the report, the capacity of the judicial system to deal with all registered cases is often stretched given that wildlife crime makes up only one facet of crime in Namibia where the system is inundated high rates of homicide, rape, domestic violence and fraud, among others.

The report elaborated that sensitive cases, including all those related to rhinos, must be submitted to the prosecutor general’s office, lab results from ballistics and DNA analysis take time and securing legal representation for the accused often causes postponements.

“These factors can lead to lengthy prosecution delays. It may thus take years for complex cases to be finalised. The importance of effectively prosecuting wildlife crimes is nonetheless recognised and a variety of initiatives are being undertaken to ensure more efficient finalisation of cases, the report states.

Namibia loses 9 rhinos, 1 elephant to poaching since January

By Antipoaching, Conservation, namibia No Comments | March 29, 2020

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WINDHOEK: Namibia has lost nine rhinos and one elephant to poaching since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism said Monday.

Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said poaching took place inside private owned farms and the country’s national parks, with the latest incident taking place last Friday when one elephant was poached. Two suspects have since been arrested.

The ministry official did not say how many rhinos and elephants were poached during the comparable period last year as he said he was out of office.

“In general, we have seen a steady decrease in rhino and elephant poaching in the past 3 years,” Muyunda said.

Rhino poaching in Namibia dropped to 41 individuals killed in all of 2019 compared with nearly 72 during the same period in 2018, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism said last December.

Namibia has the second largest population of white rhinos in the world after South Africa and, according to NGO Save the Rhino, it holds one-third of the world’s remaining black rhinos.

Poaching in Namibia has yo-yoed since peaking in 2015 at 95 rhinos, falling to 60 in 2016, 36 in 2017 and then going up to 72 again in 2018.


Sixteen arrested for poaching (Namibia)

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New Era Live| March 28, 2020

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The Namibia Police Force arrested and charged 16 suspects on charges of rhino or elephant poaching and conspiracy of elephant poaching last week.

Police also confiscated five firearms, rounds of ammunitions and a motor vehicle.
Among other items which were recovered during the anti-poaching operation are; varied wild life products such as  four elephant tusks, a pangolin skin , two duiker carcasses, one waterbuck carcass and one warthog carcass.

Original photo by Robin Moore


According to the police crime statistics report, at Kongola seven suspects were charged for illegal hunting of the protected game and another four offenders appeared before court for illegal possession of firearms without licences as well as illegal supply of arms and ammunitions.

At Dordabis four suspects were also apprehended for illegal hunting of the protected game. While at Nkurenkuru, four accused persons appeared in court for illegal position of firearms.

In a related charge at Okahao, one person was arrested for contravening Section 4(1) (a) and (b) of Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act 9 of 2008.

Rhino poaching and the inside job (Namibia)

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Namibian| March 23, 2020

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The term ‘poacher’ is often used for anyone involved in wildlife crime. In reality, wildlife crime functions through a complex web of criminals, where the poachers – the people carrying out the illegal killing of an animal to initiate the trade in its parts – are at the lowest level.

Poachers are often rural community members with good “bush skills”. They need to find and kill an intended target, and get the products to a dealer. But bush skills are no longer enough to poach rhinos. The huge increase in rhino poaching in recent years has led to the pachyderms receiving specialised protection.

This includes establishing anti-poaching units, putting up electric fencing, surveillance cameras and other technologies and activities. To avoid all of this security, find and kill a rhino, and get the horns to a dealer is no longer easy. It requires inside information – the “inside job”.

Bribes are a central component of inside jobs. People are bribed to provide inside information, to look the other way, or to remove obstacles so that criminal activity becomes easier.

Original photo by Namibian: Two white rhinos spotted in the Namibian wild. Photo: Nampa

While poaching is often carried out by rural community members, wheeling and dealing business people tend to get involved in nefarious activities that include trafficking illegal wildlife products. They usually have access to significant amounts of cash, which they use to ‘smooth the path’ of crime.

Paying or receiving bribes is against the law, punishable with severe penalties. Any actions of aiding and abetting criminals are equally serious. In several cases over the past year, arrested suspects have attempted to bribe law-enforcement officers. Yet the officers immediately reported the incidents and the charge of attempted bribery was added to the wildlife-crime charges.

Inside jobs in wildlife crime can occur anywhere. People use privileged knowledge or positions of power to commit offences at all levels of the crime chain. It might be an employee of a protected area, perhaps even the security personnel tasked with safeguarding the rhinos.

At higher levels, it might be a police officer, a customs official or other government employee, or a community leader who uses a position of influence and trust to enable rhino killing, or the trafficking of rhino horns out of the country.

The most high-profile case in recent months of an inside job was the arrest (in January 2020) of a senior police officer from Oshakati, who used his status as a cover for his activities as a wildlife-crime kingpin. He coordinated rhino poaching in Etosha National Park, as well as the sale of the horns to international dealers. Several other government officials have been arrested in relation to rhino poaching in Etosha.

During a recent visit to the park, police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga, expressed the sentiment that it is a disgrace to the integrity of our security forces that civil servants have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.

The transparency with which internal transgressions are being addressed by the government is commendable. People in positions of trust obviously have a heightened responsibility, yet no sector of society is immune to temptation. How infringements are dealt with is important. This is where public trust is tested.

The recent arrests have shown that in Namibia, security forces and other government officials are not above the law. Investigators carry out their work without bias. Suspects are being arrested, charged and prosecuted, irrespective of their status.

Wildlife crime cases involving government staff usually receive heightened public attention. This may lead to the impression that a large percentage of wildlife crimes are carried out by civil servants. Of the 91 suspects arrested on charges related to rhino poaching or trafficking during 2019, only six were government officials.

Three of these had direct links to the location being targeted, or used their position to facilitate the crime. Yet these numbers represent only a tiny fraction of the thousands of people involved in the protection of Namibia’s rhino. The vast majority are dedicated, trustworthy women and men, who rarely receive recognition for their work, but are quickly cast in a bad light if anything goes wrong.

Importantly, inside information is a two-way street. Technological advances, including excellent surveillance and forensics techniques, are enabling an entirely new level of law enforcement. Combined with information provided by the public, this is allowing law enforcement officials to be a step ahead of the poachers in many cases.

During 2019, 91 suspects in 27 cases were arrested on charges related to rhino poaching or trafficking. Of these, 59 suspects in 15 cases were arrested before they could kill a rhino – and charged with conspiracy to poach. More than half of the rhino cases involving arrests were pre-emptive arrest cases.

Under Namibian law, conspiracy to poach is treated with the same seriousness as when the actual crime is committed.

The pre-emptive arrests have saved dozens of rhinos. They must be seen as one of the most significant successes in Namibia’s battle against wildlife crime. They show that when legal systems function effectively and the public is on the side of the law, the power of the inside job is reversed.

Helge Denker is a Namibian-born writer, artist and naturalist. He has worked in various sectors within the Namibian tourism and environmental spheres for the past three decades, and has published numerous articles on the country’s conservation issues.

Local short film “Baxu and the Giants” to stream globally

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The Economist | March 18, 2020

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Multiple award-winning local short film ‘Baxu and the Giants’, telling the story of how Rhino poaching triggers social change in rural Namibia, will be available globally to stream and download for free starting 20 March.

The 29-minute film follows Baxu, a 9-year old girl who is in touch with nature and tradition but toughened by life in poverty, lives with her older brother Khata and an alcoholic grandmother in a village in Damaraland, Namibia.

Baxu and the Giants was commissioned by the Legal Assistance Centre with the aim of sensitising teenagers to the issue of poaching in Namibia. Producer Andrew Botelle (‘The Power Stone’, ‘Born in Etosha’) enlisted Director and Co-Writer Florian Schott (‘Katutura’) and Co-Producer/Co-Writer Girley Jazama (‘The White Line’) to craft an emotional story out of this difficult issue.

Original image from The Economist

Over the last six months, Baxu and the Giants screened in ten countries around the world, at over 20 Film Festivals and won multiple international awards, including the Award for Best Foreign Narrative at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival, three Namibian Theatre- and Film Awards (including Best Female Actor for 10-year-old Camilla Jo-Ann Daries), two international Cinematography Awards and two Awards at the Knysna Film Festival in South Africa.

Just in the last few weeks, Schott presented the film to over 500 school children in Los Angeles as part of the Pan African Film Festival and at the RapidLion Film Festival in Johannesburg, where the film was also nominated for ‘Best Humanitarian Film’.

In addition to that, the Legal Assistance started showing the film to thousands of learners all across Namibia and MaMoKoBo Video & Research is busy bringing the film to all corners of Namibia via mobile screenings, in partnership with the Save the Rhino Trust and the Ministry of Environment & Tourism.

Baxu and the Giants will be available to stream on the official website as well as on YouTube and Vimeo.

Fight against wildlife trafficking gets boost (Namibia)

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Albertina Nakale, New Era | October 10, 2019

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WINDHOEK: The United States of America continues to boost assistance towards Namibia’s fight against wildlife trafficking.

This week, United States Ambassador Lisa Johnson handed over two Toyota Land Cruisers to the project “Combating Wildlife Trafficking in Namibia”, through a donor-funded project managed by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF).

One vehicle will be used by NNF in the Windhoek area and the other by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Kunene.

The project is the third in a series of three projects funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

Namibia is known around the world for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife. Tourists flock here in thousands every year for a chance to see rhinos, cheetahs and elephants roaming wild and free in the Land of the Brave. But in the last few years, Namibia has begun to confront a new kind of environmental challenge.

Poaching in one form or another has been around for decades, but trafficking in endangered wildlife products, particularly rhino horns and elephant tusks, has increased sharply in Namibia in just the last few years.

Original photo by Robin Moore

The U.S. funded project also aims to reduce poaching and trafficking of protected animals and their body parts originating from Namibia.

It also works to strengthen Namibia’s domestic criminal justice institutions to successfully carry out enforcement, investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The project directly supports the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Namibian police to implement a comprehensive set of on the ground anti-poaching interventions.

The Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor Generals-Office, and the Ministry of Finance are other important government partners in the fight against wildlife crime. The vehicles will be used to improve the projects team mobility in Northwest Namibia as well as that of the project management unit.

Johnson said the fight against wildlife trafficking requires a partnership among organisations like the NNF, governments, and communities.

“Working together, we will be able to save Namibia’s most endangered species,” she noted.
Executive Director of the NNF Angus Middleton explained the INL funding became available at a critical point in time, especially when rhino poaching picked-up in Namibia.

“Through providing targeted support to a number of Namibian government agencies and field partners, poaching incidents have been reduced and arrests have increased. This is important nationally not just because of wildlife and tourism but because criminal syndicates target wildlife, just as much as they are involved in other illicit activities such as drugs and human trafficking,” Middleton said.

Middleton further stated that this funding also underlines the need for international collaboration to combat wildlife crime and to conserve common global heritage.

He added they remain grateful to the United States government for not only supporting Namibia but joining it in solidarity for conservation and development.

In celebration of World Rhino Day last month, Johnson joined the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the World Wildlife Fund to call for protection of Namibia’s rhinoceroses’ population.

“Together, we must save Namibia’s rhinos from illegal poaching,” she said in Khorixas at a ceremony to mark Rhino Day, which occurs on September 22. The U.S. Agency for International Development (Usaid) provides funding to the WWF through the Combating Wildlife Crime Project, which protects the black rhino population in northwest Namibia. The project is a five-year initiative, begun in 2017, and partners with both the Namibian government and local communities.

Johnson mentioned in her remarks several rhino conservation projects in the Kunene Region sponsored by the U.S. government, including through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

“We’ve shown that Namibia’s rhinos can be saved through a collective effort by our governments, communities, and partners in conservation,” Johnson said.

On World Rhino Day, she reaffirmed to all Namibians the United States’ commitment to the precious wildlife.

Poaching syndicate fights for bail (Namibia)

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Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | October 7, 2019

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While two suspects in a multimillion-dollar rhino-horn theft case were released on bail this week, an alleged poaching kingpin was denied permission to appeal against the refusal of his bail application.

Petrus Shihepo Shimuningeni has been fingered as the mastermind behind a poaching syndicate which targeted a private game farm near Etosha National Park in the Kunene Region, where at least 13 rhinos have been poached this year.

The same farm owner, who is licensed by the government to keep horns removed from living rhinos, was also the target of gang of thieves in August this year. They stole 34 rhino horns, valued at an estimated N$100 million, which he had kept at a second farm near Outjo. The horns were from rhinos which he had dehorned in an attempt to protect them from poachers.

Original photo as published by Namibian Sun

The farm owner discovered on 11 August that the farmhouse had been broken into during his absence. Besides the 34 rhino horns, the burglars got away with three firearms, cash and jewellery.

Five suspects in the theft case were arrested. On Tuesday this week, Herman Paulus Pendapala and Petrus Ipinge were granted bail of N$30,000 each by the Windhoek High Court.

The head of the Blue Rhino task team, Deputy Commissioner¬ Barry de Klerk, has indicated that the State will appeal against the court’s decision to grant them bail.

Also on Tuesday, the High Court denied alleged poaching kingpin Shimuningeni’s application to appeal against the Outjo District Court’s refusal to grant him bail.

Shimuningeni was arrested on 10 February. He was charged with the illegal hunting of a white rhino cow and a black rhino bull at the private game farm near Etosha National Park in December.

The white rhino was valued at more than N$500,000 and the black rhino at N$800,000. Shimuningeni allegedly sold the rhino horns for N$7,000.

Shimuningeni allegedly also financed and provided four co-accused with transport and weapons between 20 and 30 December 2018.

Shimuningeni owns a restaurant, bar, mini-market and overnight facilities between Ondangwa and Ongwediva in the Oshana Region.

In support of his appeal, Shimuningeni claimed that he had been in Swakopmund between 20 and 30 December 2018 and nowhere near the farm where the two rhinos were poached.

He also claimed that he did not know the other accused, George Nangene, Penteconsta Ruhuzu, Nghinomenwa Hangula and Dimbulukeni Tileinge.

Shimuningeni said there was no evidence that he had transferred money to one of the co-accused as alleged by the State.

He also claimed that one of his co-accused had incriminated him during the bail hearing because he had been tortured by the police and forced to make a false statement.

His application to be granted bail of N$5,000 was refused by Acting Judge Eileen Rakow on the grounds that police investigator Daniel Katipi had presented convincing evidence that Shimuningeni had played a leading role in the smuggling of rhino horns. Katipi had testified that the police considered Shimuningeni to be the kingpin in a rhino-poaching syndicate and that there was strong evidence linking him to the crime.

The black rhinos surviving Damaraland’s drought (Namibia)

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Guest blog by Keith Somerville, Save the Rhino | October 3, 2019

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Bashing along a basalt boulder-strewn track in Torra Conservancy in Namibia’s Damaraland, our guide cut the engine and whispered “rhino”. About 150 yards ahead was a large black rhino looking straight toward us. Because rhinos have poor eyesight it is most likely that she was listening to the sound of us approaching, but probably couldn’t see us well enough to know what we were.

Original photo as published by Save the Rhino: Guest blog by Keith Somerville.

If the cow was aware of our presence, she didn’t show any concern and continued nibbling at the euphorbia damarana bush in front of her. This bush survives well in the harsh, arid, rocky terrain and climate of Namibia’s Damaraland. It may be one reason why the desert-adapted rhinos of Damaraland appear to be surviving the three-year drought there better than other wildlife. Euphorbia is strongly drought resistant and exudes a thick, milky sap that is so toxic that it can kill browsing herbivores and has been used by San hunters as a poison for their arrows. Rhinos can eat it without ill-effects (as can desert-adapted gemsbok and kudu) and it helps them survive when other vegetation withers and dies.

Talking to trackers from Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust, I was told that elephants and many other browsers won’t eat euphorbia and this means more food is available for the rhinos when drought has destroyed palatable plants and led to death for some animals. We saw the carcass of an elephant in one of the conservancies, which our guide said had died from starvation caused by drought.

Yet the rhinos are doing well. The rhino we first spotted was not alone. She was accompanied by a very healthy three-month-old calf. The calf looked strong and showed no signs of suffering from the conditions – an indication that the cow was getting enough food and liquid to produce milk.

A kilometre further on, we got more evidence of the successful breeding ability and mothering skills of the cow we’d seen. Again feeding on euphorbia was a young male. This, our guide told us, was the three-year-old offspring of the same cow, which had been weaned and then pushed out of her territory by the mother before she gave birth to the calf we had seen.

A few days later we successfully tracked a black rhino cow and fully-grown calf in a conservancy to the north of Torra. Our tracker told us that calves were appearing to stay with their mothers longer during the drought, presumably to learn more about what they could and could not safely eat.

It was heartening to see successful breeding among these endangered rhinos and to be able to approach to a close but respectful distance without causing alarm. This is to a great extent a result of the conservancy policy in Namibia, giving local communities a greater sense of ownership over land and wildlife, and the work of the Save the Rhino Trust in combating poaching and encouraging tolerance in the conservancies (where pastoralists live alongside wildlife).

Poaching remains a problem in Namibia – but less so in conservancies where there are eco-tourism ventures and the people have the ability to make their own decisions about sustainable approaches to conservation. This means that communities benefit from encouraging the well-being of rhinos, as they bring in income through tourism without threatening livestock or water resources.

Professor Keith Somerville is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation at the University of Kent, a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Protected Areas wildlife management bill in final stages (Namibia)

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Albertina Nakale, New Era | September 30, 2019

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WINDHOEK: The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has announced that the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill is in the stages of finalisation.

This was revealed by environment deputy minister Bernadette Jagger during the World Rhino Day celebrated in Khorixas over the weekend.

Original photo as published by New Era Live

She confirmed that once passed, the Bill will enable the prosecution of poachers and stiffer sentences for those who benefit from illicit wildlife trade.

Equally, Jagger explained that the ministry is busy revising the National Strategy on Wildlife Protection and Law Enforcement.

“The revised strategy will respond to new challenges posed by poaching and illegal wildlife trade. To address both the supply of and demand for illegal wildlife products, institutions and law enforcement must be strengthened at all levels, across all affected regions and close cooperation with neighbouring countries,” she said.

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar business that is decimating Africa’s iconic animal populations. Many iconic species such as the African rhinoceros face the risk of significant decline or even extinction.

According to latest statistics, a total of 9 273 rhinos have been poached in Africa between 2007-2018. World Rhino Day is an international event celebrated annually on September 22. In Namibia the day is an opportunity for the government, non-governmental organisations and communities to come together to celebrate this magnificent species and create more awareness about it.

This year’s event was celebrated under the theme “I am a Rhino Friend Forever”. The event was hosted by the Namibia Nature Foundation and Save the Rhino Trust, under the Rhino Pride Campaign, supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the World Wildlife Fund in Namibia (WWF).

The partnership between the United States and Namibia includes the USAID-funded Combating Wildlife Crime Project. This five-year initiative began in April 2017. It is being implemented by WWF in Namibia, in partnership with a consortium of 12 non-governmental organisations that are supporting the government and communities to combat wildlife crime and illegal wildlife traffic.

In Namibia, wildlife tourism is a growing and increasingly important industry that brings benefits to the national economy. Therefore, the Namibia Nature Foundation feels decimating wildlife species and destroying natural ecosystems threaten this prosperous development sector and improved livelihoods for communities.

The event also highlighted the contribution of the Rhino Pride Campaign towards safeguarding rhinos.

The Rhino Pride Campaign encourages a sense of pride in living with rhinos and fosters the notion that wildlife crime is economically damaging to the region and the nation.

U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson said she is happy to report that their hard work together is already paying off.

“I am so encouraged to hear that zero rhinos have been poached over the last two years in the north-western communal areas of Kunene,” she said.

Revealed: ‘Ivory trafficker’ is arrested over slaughter of endangered black rhinos at the Malawi wildlife sanctuary Prince Harry will visit on Monday – after police uncovered haul of horns, hippo teeth and crocodile skins

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James Fielding, The Daily Mail Online | September 30, 2019

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A man accused of ivory trafficking faces jail over slaughter rhinos at a Malawian wildlife sanctuary where Prince Harry will visit on Monday.

Yunhua Lin was arrested after a dramatic police swoop seized a haul of rhino horns, hippo teeth and crocodile skins.

The horns come from the endangered black rhinos butchered at the Liwonde National Park where the Duke of Sussex worked on one of the world’s biggest conservation projects.

Harry spent three weeks at the 212-square mile park, in the south of the country, as part of a project to re-introduce 500 elephants in 2016.

He is due to visit Liwonde again on Monday as part of a 10-day Royal tour of Africa, his first overseas engagement with Meghan and their five-month-old son Archie.

Michelle Harper, of the African Conservation Foundation told MailOnline: ‘Harry will be horrified to learn that rhinos from the park where he spent three happy weeks have been slaughtered for their horns.

Original photo by Robin Moore

‘The Duke worked closely with authorities in the park three years ago when he helped move 500 elephants and so has a great affinity with all of the park’s animals.

‘However he’ll be pleased that authorities in Malawi appear to be winning the fight not just against the poachers but also the traffickers responsible for ultimately driving the demand for ivory and the killing on the ground.’

Crime boss Lin, 46, described by the Malawi Government as a ‘notorious ivory kingpin’, was targeted in coordinated police raids across six properties in May. He initially escaped and went on the run for three months before eventually being tracked down in Liwonde and arrested in August.

Lin, known as Lee ‘Fingers’ because he is missing three digits on his left hand, is currently in jail on remand and is expected to appear in court on October 8. He is charged with illegal possession of listed species and dealing in Government trophies contrary to the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

His gang also face charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Among those arrested during the police raids in May were Lin’s wife Qin Hua Zhang, 42, and son-in-law Li Hao Yaun, 28.

At the time both were on bail for separate trafficking offences that they were finally convicted of this week.

Zhang and Yaun were arrested with two Malawians in December 2017 at a farm in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe.

They were found with ten pieces of ivory – weighing 21 kilograms – alongside illicit drugs, and crocodile skins.

The gang were convicted of illegal possession of, and dealing in, a listed species at the magistrates court in Lilongwe on Tuesday. They could be jailed for 30 years.

Mary Rice, Executive Director from the Environment Investigations Agency said, ‘I am delighted to see the Government of Malawi making such progress in its fight against organised wildlife crime.

‘Malawi was recently identified as Southern Africa’s principle transit and distribution hub for wildlife traffickers, and subsequent successes such as this are attracting positive interest and praise from the international community.

‘We shall be watching the progress of these cases with great interest.’