Stiffer Penalties Proposed for Poachers

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has revealed that the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill that will regulate appropriate fines for wildlife crimes is in its final stages of review before Cabinet endorsement.

Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said the ministry is in consultations with the relevant stakeholders, in particular with the Ministry of Justice, to seek legal input and opinions on the proposed Bill.

“We are in constant discussions with regard to issues related to courts and prosecution thereof. We are working hard to finalise the Protected Areas and Wildlife Management Bill where we are proposing appropriate fines for wildlife crimes,” the environment and tourism minister stated.

The Bill was prompted by unprecedented levels of wildlife poaching, which have hit Namibia with the ever-increasing number of rhino and elephant cases.

Last year, the country lost 24 rhinos to poachers.

This year, 60 rhinos have been poached, while 78 elephants were poached last year and 23 have been poached so far this year.

The latest records show the number of rhinos poached to date in Etosha National Park now stands at 54, while the other carcasses were discovered in the Kunene’s Palmwag tourism concession area.

Shifeta announced on Monday that the ministry intends and plans to go for public consultations on the proposed Bill before end of June or early July this year.

In this regard, the ministry established National Wildlife Protection and Security Committee, which will provide a necessary platform for stakeholder participation.

The committee would bring together the heads or appropriately delegated representatives from government agencies, organisations, departments, civil society and appropriate bodies to regular meetings to discuss strategic activities, operations and actions addressing wildlife law enforcement and compliance.

Shifeta said they would also continue to provide communication, education and community awareness programmes, although much still needs to be done.

“Our parks such as Etosha National Park are surrounded by communities and farmers. We therefore need to do more awareness and education [drives] for a better understanding on the importance of wildlife and existence of such parks,” he said.

Communities also have a role to play, through local leadership such as traditional authorities and conservancies, in stopping poaching and combating wildlife crimes.

Source : New Era