Smugglers target Eros Airport

According to the latest environment ministry poaching statistics, at least 25 rhinos have already been poached this year.

13 August 2018 | Local News

A global report has ranked Eros Airport among the top airports used by rhino horn smugglers in 2017, placing it at number eight worldwide, with seizures weighing above 30kg.

The 'In Plane Sight: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector' report reveals that wildlife traffickers are highly dependent on commercial air transportation systems.

According to the latest environment ministry poaching statistics, at least 25 rhinos have already been poached this year, indicating that on average more than three rhinos are killed by poachers per month in Namibia.

The statistics an increase in rhino poaching incidents since April, when 14 rhinos had already been killed for the year.

According to the ministry, 13 rhinos were poached this year in the Etosha National Park, while six rhinos were poached on private farms and in custodianship programme areas.

In January, two rhinos were poached, while in February six rhinos were killed. Five were poached in March and April. In May, another four poaching incidents took place and in June three rhinos were killed.

Sixteen elephants have also been poached this year. In Kunene six elephants were poached and in both the Kavango and the Zambezi regions five elephants were lost to poachers.

A total of five elephants were poached in March, in both January and May three elephants were killed, while two elephants were poached in February and June and in April one elephant was killed.

According to the global trafficking report, 133 rhino horn seizures, weighing 1 920kg, were recorded between 2009 and 2017.

However, last year saw a significant spike in rhino horn seizures, with 41 total seizures weighing 636.2kg, compared to the 14 seizures weighing 299.7kg in 2016.

“Overall, rhino horn trafficking by air appears to be experiencing an exceptional surge in activity, characterised by a rise in known rhino horn trafficking instances of all sizes.” China, Vietnam and southern Africa emerged as the most significant areas for rhino horn trafficking by air last year.

Namibia was also highlighted as one of the top ten countries by seizure count and total seizure weight for rhino horn trafficked by air in the world. According to the report, with the exception of South Africa, seizures in potential origin countries such as Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Uganda were either medium or large-scale.

It says the high number of small-scale seizures in destination countries therefore suggests that quite a few small-scale trafficking instances are moving through African airports undetected.

“This could be due to customs' focus on imports rather than exports or transit, or it could be a result of the particular effectiveness of certain Asian customs and enforcement agencies, which are able to detect even small amounts of contraband arriving from high-risk jurisdictions.” According to the report the sole large-scale rhino horn seizure that occurred in Namibia last year involved a mail parcel containing 16 rhino horn pieces concealed amongst coffee beans.

Since the seizure's weight was not reported, an estimated weight of 44.48 kg has been used.

It said that the seizure mirrored the modus operandi used a month earlier in Hong Kong. In both instances, a parcel containing coffee beans and rhino horn pieces flew out of Namibia destined for Asia (the first seizure weighed only 6.6 kg). Namibian authorities believed both seizures to be associated with the same Namibia-based trafficking syndicate.

According to the report, rhino horns were last year trafficked from Namibia to China and Malaysia. It adds that Johannesburg continued to be a significant transit point for rhino horns originating elsewhere in southern Africa, especially for countries like Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia, and destined for east and Southeast Asia.

Tourism ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said poaching remains a challenge and has implications for the economy and the country's ecosystems.

“Tourism contributes significantly to the GDP of the country and to empowering our rural communities through employment creation and revenue generation.”

Muyunda said rhinos are a tourist attraction and bring much-needed revenue.

The ministry is appealing to the public to shun poaching, condemn it and report any suspected case.

“Furthermore, poaching is against the Namibian principles for utilisation of natural resources for the benefit of all. It is a selfish act that only benefits a few and creates an ecosystem imbalance that results in unfavourable climate and environmental changes.”

Last year 35 rhinos and 23 elephants were killed by poachers. In 2016, a total of 60 rhinos were poached, while in 95 rhinos were poached in 2015 and 56 in 2014.

In 2016, a total of 101 elephants were poached, while 49 elephants were poached in 2015 and 78 were poached in 2014.

ELLANIE SMIT

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