280 cops deployed against poachers

19 September 2019 | Crime

The Namibian police have deployed 280 members to assist in the fight against poaching.

Inspector-general Sebastian Ndeitunga says these members, selected from across the country, are deployed on three-month rotations to the Palmwag Concession and the Etosha and Bwabwata national parks.

He says the objective is to reinforce the anti-poaching and patrol efforts of rangers and wardens of the environment ministry.

Ndeitunga was speaking at a workshop on wildlife legislation for prosecutors and investigating officers held in Windhoek last week.

He reminded those attending the workshop that bail is a constitutional right of any person, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and therefore denying bail should not be a punishment.

“Nevertheless, we are also duty bound to take legal measures to ensure that the interest of the public is satisfied, prevent the possibility of interference with witnesses or an ongoing investigation, even if that means that the state should. When there is evidence to support it, present such evidence in court to oppose bail of an accused person,” said Ndeitunga.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said more needs to be done to ensure that those involved in wildlife crime are prosecuted in accordance with Namibia's wildlife legislation.

According to him unprecedented levels of elephant and rhino poaching are being experienced across Africa and Namibia is no exception.

Shifeta said poaching is threatening the future of these species and the ecosystem they inhabit.

“This situation demands strict implementation of the strategies and measures to curb illegal hunting of wild animals. As poaching groups increase in size, number and sophistication, it is more important than ever that law enforcement responses are robust, reliable and effective.”

He said wildlife trafficking has become a multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise that has expanded to more than just a conservation concern. “The increased involvement of organised crime in poaching and wildlife trafficking promotes corruption, threatens peace, strengthens illicit trade routes, destabilises economies and communities that depend on wildlife and their livelihoods.”

The Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975 was amended in 2017 to increase the penalties for illegal hunting. The Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act of 2008 was also amended to increase the penalties for possession of such products.

“This review of our wildlife legislation includes appropriate penalties for offences related to illegal hunting and trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and must be enforced or implemented fully. Our legal system and prosecution of illegal hunting and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife product cases need to be strengthened,” the minister said.

Shifeta stressed that wildlife crime needs to be treated as a serious crime.

“Effective operationalisation and implementation of relevant laws and regulations is crucial and appropriate penalties, prosecution and sentencing must be in place.

“It is also important for prosecutors and investigating officers in wildlife crime to analyse and assess other laws such as the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) regulations and enforce them to deter illegal hunting of wildlife and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.” He said prosecutors and magistrates need to be well versed in the relevant legislation, and understand the effect of wildlife crime on the local and national economy.

A total of 28 rhino have already been poached this year compared to the 70 of last year, while 11 elephants have been poached this year and 27 elephants were poached last year.

Last week, seven new wildlife crime cases were registered and 13 suspects were arrested.

This is according to statistics provided by the Intelligence and Investigative Unit within the environment ministry and the Protective Resources Division within the safety and security ministry.

Four of the 13 suspects were arrested for rhino poaching and trafficking and one for elephant poaching and trafficking.

Furthermore, two rhino horns, two elephant tusks, two pangolin skins, two live pangolins and one lion skin were confiscated last week. Police also seized two firearms and ammunition.

According to the crime report two rhinos were poached last week at Farm Gravenstyn in Dordabis district. According to the police an unknown suspect shot and killed two rhinos and removed their horns. The discovery was made on by the farm owner on Thursday.

[email protected]

ELLANIE SMIT

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