Tables turn on rhino poachers (Namibia)

Black Rhino, Namibia. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Southern Times | September 25, 2020

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WINDHOEK: Namibia has said it will continue with its dehorning programme as a strategic line of defence to protect rhinos from poachers.

Marking Rhinoceros Day on September 22, Namibia’s Environment, Forestry and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the dehorning strategy that started in 2014 would roll into the coming year, particularly in poaching hotspots.

This year, 22 rhinos have been poached in Namibia, against 46 in 2019, 78 in 2018; 55 in 2017 and 61 in 2016.

The country has a third of the world’s surviving black rhino population and the second highest numbers of white rhinos after South Africa. Namibia also has the largest population of black rhinos in a protected area and the largest free-roaming black rhino population in the world.

Apart from dehorning, to protect the endangered species, the Environment Ministry also established a unit whose sole purpose is to wildlife intelligence and investigations.

Minister Shifeta said collaborations between the Protected Resources Division of the Namibian Police Force and the Intelligence and Investigation Unit of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism had been extremely successful as the country moved to being proactive rather than reactive when it came to wildlife protection.

“Instead of the discovery of a dead rhino initiating an investigation, would-be poachers are now regularly arrested while they are still conspiring to kill a rhino,” he said.

In the first half of 2020, 30 percent of the 88 arrests related to rhinos were pre-emptive and suspects were apprehended before they had made a kill. In 2019, there were 68 pre-emptive arrests out of a total of 131 rhino poaching-related capture of suspects.

Improved synergies with prosecutors have also led to an increase in convictions and in May 2020, six would-be poachers were convicted in two case of conspiring to kill rhinos.

Significantly, the enhanced approach is resulting in the capture of dealers, middlemen and others who abet rhino poaching at international scale, with syndicates unravelling and being dismantled.