Police pounce on poachers

05 June 2019 | Crime

Four suspects were arrested and 11 elephant tusks, six pieces of tusk and two live pangolins were confiscated in separate wildlife incidents this weekend in the Zambezi Region.

Police are still searching for other the suspects involved in these wildlife crimes, who managed to get away when the arrests took place.

This was confirmed by the spokesperson of the environment ministry, Romeo Muyunda, who said the three incidents all took place on 2 June.

Muyunda said the arrests and discoveries were made in joint operations by the ministry and the police.

According to him 11 elephant tusks were confiscated at the Chotto compound in Katima Mulilo. Based on photos taken at the crime scene, the elephant tusks were buried under the floor of a bedroom and had to be dug up.

A 27-year-old man, Mabuku Pedro Lute, was arrested. He appeared in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court for the possession and dealing in controlled wildlife products.

He remains in custody. His case has been postponed to 24 June. In another incident, six pieces of elephant tusk were confiscated at Lubata village.

A 28-year-old Zambian, Dennis Mubita, was arrested. The ivory was found in the trunk of a car.

Mubita also appeared in the Katima Mulilo court and was refused bail. His case was postponed to 24 July.

While the police were tracking the Zambian national, they came across two Namibian children - aged 15 and 17 - who had two live pangolins in their possession at Sachona village.

The children were released in the custody of their parents.

“The ministry commends the Namibian police as well as our officials for their hard work and determination in making these significant busts,” said Muyunda. He said the success of this operation was a boost to Namibia's anti-poaching efforts.

“We warn those involved in such activities to stop or risk being caught to face the full wrath of our laws, with increased fines.”

The punishment for wildlife crimes has become stricter. If convicted, a person can be sentenced to 25 years in prison, a N$25 million fine, or both.

The latest data provided by the ministry shows that seven elephants and 16 rhinos have been poached this year.

A total of 57 rhino and 26 elephants were poached last year, while more than 120 suspects were arrested for wildlife crimes.

ELLANIE SMIT