WINDHOEK, A maximum fine of 10 million Namibian dollars (about 763,000 US dollars) may soon be imposed for anyone found guilty of illegally hunting specially protected species if the Nature Conservation Amendment Bill is passed.

The Bill, which was tabled in the National Assembly here Tuesday, aims to provide for a proper administrative, legal and procedural framework for tourism concessions in protected areas and other State land; control of the import and export of live game or animals; and to increase penalties for wildlife crimes.

Currently, the illegal wildlife hunting penalty is set at 20,000 (NAD) and an imprisonment period of from five to 10 years.

Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said Tuesday the current Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975 did not fully empower the Minister to award tourism concessions in protected areas and State land, nor make provision for the Minister to regulate imports and exports of live game or wildlife.

The minister said this posed significant risks such as exotic disease transmission, genetic pollution and public danger.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has approved proposed amendments to the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act to increase fines and prison terms for the possession and trade of controlled wildlife products such as elephant tusks and rhino horns.

Once the Bill is approved by Parliament, any foreign national convicted of trading in wildlife products, irrespective of whether they pay a fine or are sentenced, will be deported and will not be allowed back into Namibia.