Friday, April 24, 2015

Namibia to Conduct Aerial Patrols to Repress Poaching

A mother black rhinoceros and her calf in Etosha National Park

Pohamba Shifeta, the Minister of Environment and Tourism in Namibia, recently announced that the government will conduct aerial patrols in game reserves and train rangers to efficiently control the problem of poaching. While addressing a press conference in the capital city of Windhoek, Minister Shifeta pointed out that some rangers are neither correctly trained nor committed to their work of fighting poaching in the country. His address came a few days after news that earlier this year, 38 rhinos might have been killed in the famed Etosha National Park. Of this figure, 31 carcasses were found between April 8 and April 17 this year. The 31 rhinos found dead could bring the death toll of rhino poaching in Etosha National Park within a six-month period, to 42. Minister Shifeta further added that the government was busy revisiting the law so that courts would be given the privilege to enforce harsher sentences on poachers. In addition, the ministry was working jointly with the police and defense force, and would also redistribute conservation specialists. Minister Shifeta also indicated that the ministry recently visited Etosha National Park and were not satisfied with the condition of the fence around it. Official figures indicate that Namibia lost 24 rhinos in 2014, and the peril seems to be increasing. Simeon Negumbo, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, indicated at the end of the week that the 31 rhino carcasses were either old or still had their horns attached. He further added that the ministry and the police were still inspecting whether all the dead rhinos were victims of poaching or not.

The use of aerial patrols and properly training rangers to combat poaching is highly essential not just in Namibia, but in other African countries where elephants, rhinos, and other endangered species reside. Elephants and rhinos are particularly in the spotlight, due to countless numbers of these animals falling victim to poaching in order to feed the growing demand of rhino horns and ivory in Asia. In addition, the illegal rhino horn and ivory trade is also known to finance militant groups across Africa and help them flourish. These groups have also turned to poaching in order to gain access to rhino horns and elephant tusks, which fetch astronomical sums of money enabling the groups to purchase weapons or any necessary items to conduct their crimes against humanity. Some notable groups that are key players or suspected of being key players in this trade are Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Janjaweed, and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). This connection between the illegal wildlife trade and terrorism is a clear indication that it is essential to take serious action to suppress the demand of ivory, rhino horns, and other wildlife products. In addition, poaching and the wildlife trade is also fueled by corruption in Africa. This could be seen when although certain countries take a pledge to combat poaching by any means necessary, they would receive diplomatic visits by foreign dignitaries from China, Vietnam, and others countries who secretly function as passages in illegally exporting ivory, rhino horns, and other wildlife products. One example of this was seen in a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in November 2014. In addition, customs and other law enforcement officials are bribed by the perpetrators and some high-ranking politicians are known to secretly lend a helping hand in the illicit business. The threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Africa tremendously affects its tourism industry which relies on foreign investment to benefit the continent's socioeconomic development. This can contribute to high levels of poverty and unemployment in African countries and force the people make money by dishonest means, including poaching. In Mozambique, people of lower-class status are found to be involved in South Africa's rhino poaching and contributing to the downfall of the country's rhino population in recent years lured by the promise of making easy money to support themselves and their families. Therefore, it is highly crucial to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in an effort to reduce the demand of wildlife products and end terrorism and corruption through military and diplomatic means.

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