Rhino dehorning key - Shifeta

Namibia has recorded 22 poached rhinos so far this year, compared to 46 last year, 78 in 2018, 55 in 2017 and 61 in 2016.

24 September 2020 | Environment

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Dehorning rhinos in poaching hotspots continues to be the best way to protect them against poachers.

This is according to environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, who was speaking on Tuesday, as Namibia joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Rhino Day.

Despite major progress Namibia has made in rhino conservation, the country remains challenged by poaching incidents, he said.

Shifeta added that the most significant achievement by law enforcement has been the arrest of a long list of dealers, middlemen, aiders and abettors including kingpins involved in rhino poaching.

“This is unravelling crime syndicates and forcing dealers to expose themselves in their search for new buyers, creating a domino effect of further arrests.”



Poaching concerns continue

Shifeta said even though Namibia has seen a decline in poaching incidents, patterns are highly dynamic and any amount of poaching remains a major concern to the ministry.

“Recent areas of concern are the custodian programme, the Kunene Region and private white rhino populations, which necessitates further preventative measures.”

Namibia has recorded 22 poached rhinos so far this year, compared to 46 last year, 78 in 2018, 55 in 2017 and 61 in 2016.

Shifeta said the ministry has determined that the best strategy for 2020/21 is to dehorn as many rhinos as possible in poaching hotspots.

“It is also necessary to translocate rhinos out of high-risk areas to safer locations, therefore establishing new populations and supplementing existing populations to stimulate growth and manage density-dependent factors,” he said.



Pre-emptive arrests

According to Shifeta, during the first half of this year, 30% of the 88 rhino poaching arrests were pre-emptive, involving suspects conspiring to poach.

In 2019, 68 out of 131 arrests were pre-emptive.

“That is over half of the suspects caught before they manged to kill a rhino.

“Close collaboration with the prosecution is also leading to convictions with appropriate sentences.”

A total of six perpetrators were convicted in May in two cases for conspiring to poach rhinos, he said.



Namibia a world leader

Namibia currently hosts the world's largest population of the black rhino subspecies Diceros bicornis.

“About 93% of the total population of this taxon are found in Namibia and rhino numbers are steadily increasing under an established and innovative conservation and management programme,” Shifeta said.

According to him, Namibia has a third of the entire remaining black rhinos on the planet and the second largest white rhino population in the world after South Africa.

Namibia also has the largest black rhino population in a protected area and the largest free-roaming population of these animals in the world.

The minister further said Namibia's black and white rhino conservation strategy concentrates on maximising population growth rates.

“The strategy's vision is that by 2030, both species of rhino are re-established in viable, healthy breeding populations throughout their former range and are sustainably utilised.

“The overall goal is to collectively manage the rhinos as a meta-population.”

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