Laboratory tests needed to determine poaching figures

WINDHOEK: Laboratory tests will be carried out to determine the cause of death of 60 rhinos and 23 elephants that have died in Namibia since the beginning of the year.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta said at a media conference in Windhoek on Monday not all the carcasses of rhinos and elephants that have been found since the beginning of 2015 showed signs of poaching.

“Some could have died of fighting as some carcasses were found with their horns intact. Post-mortems will be done to determine the causes of death and the information collected will be taken to the laboratory. We will then be able to assess every carcass to determine the cause of death,” he said.

Of the 60 rhinos found, a total of 54 carcasses were found in the Etosha National Park, while six were found in the Palmwag area in the Kunene Region.

Poaching figures have shown that in 2014, 24 rhinos and 78 elephants were killed.

This comes after an extended period of low wildlife crime in Namibia.

Shifeta said there is a clear requirement for a strategy to upgrade law enforcement and wildlife crime prevention capacity in the country, as well as for immediate action that should be part of, and feed into, the overall strategy.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has been working with other law enforcement and conservation agencies to put short and longer-term strategic measures in place to stop the poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The short and long-term measures involve issues of human capacity, surveillance, patrolling and detection.

Currently, members of the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) have been deployed in the Etosha National Park, Bwabwata National Park and Palmwag tourism concession area. Aerial patrols are also being conducted by NamPol and the Namibian Defence Force.

Shifeta gave his assurance that investigations will continue in all areas where illegal hunting of rhinos and elephants were reported.

“We continue to invest more resources in combating illegal hunting of our rhinos and elephants. The situation can be described as a priority crime and therefore more resources need to be invested in our efforts to stop these illegal activities,” he added.