by Albertina Nakale
Due to the escalating incidences of elephant and rhino poaching, the South African Tourism strongly suggests in order to win the war against poaching there is a need to quash the demand for tusks and horn products.
Namibian elephant mortalities have risen steeply this year, bringing the total to a devastating 67 animals butchered since January. In August three more rhino carcasses – possibly poached for horns – were discovered in Etosha National Park, pushing the figure of known rhino mortalities to 37 for this year and bringing the total rhino deaths since last year to 162.
About 43 rhinos have been unlawfully killed since January and one of the cases involved rhino poaching in Erindi Game Reserve. According to the available data, since 2008 poachers have killed at least 5 940 African rhinos.
Rhino poaching has created an ecological crisis. By the end of 2015, the number of African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1 338 rhinos killed by poachers across Africa in 2015.
These statistics are compiled by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).
In an exclusive interview with New Era on Saturday, South African tourism board chief executive officer Sisa Ntshona agreed that neighbouring South Africa is no exception, as poaching is rife there.
He said they have been trying to respond to the crisis, but are still not winning the war due to the lucrative market for rhino and elephant products believed to exist in Asia.
“We don’t have the perfect answers yet and policing is part of it. But policing something that is a big phenomenon within itself is tough. Until we kill demand for the rhino products we will forever be chasing our tails.
“Every time an animal is killed it’s sold somewhere else. It’s a journey. We can’t just say it’s a South African or Namibian problem, because internationally, we are perceived the same,” he noted.
Consequently, he said there is a need for both countries to communicate and collaborate in the fight against wildlife crime. “We have to make sure we kill demand for these products in the markets that have been identified,” Ntshona maintained.
He said current measures in place to stop poaching, such as de-horning rhinos, are “merely stoppage measures”, as the animal loses its natural disposition.
The recent arrest of the 52-year-old school principal of Simataa Senior Secondary School in Linyanti Constituency in the Zambezi Region, who was among a group of suspects suspected of running a syndicate that poaches elephants for their coveted ivory, has set tongues wagging.
The principal is among four suspects arrested in connection with the alleged recent poaching of three elephant bulls.
Ministry of Environment and Tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda yesterday revealed to New Era that the local community had alerted officials to their discovery of one of the carcasses.
One carcass was discovered on October 11 and two more were discovered around October 16 in the Salambala Conservancy.
Upon further investigation, he said the police traced the suspects and eventually confiscated four tusks, a .375 hunting rifle fitted with silencer and telescope, a bush knife, a traditional axe, plus several rounds of ammunition.
Muyunda said one pair of elephant tusks is still missing.
Thereafter, the four suspects – including the principal – were arrested. A case of poaching was opened at Ngoma police station and the suspects appeared in Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court on October 19 and 20, where three were denied bail.
Namibia has the largest population of black rhino in the world, numbering about 5 000.
The statistics show that about 1 175 rhinos were poached in South Africa during 2015, a slight decrease on the previous year when a record 1 215 rhinos were illegally killed.