41 nabbed in suspected rhino poaching

Minister of Environment and Tourism Honorable Pohamba Shifeta. (Photograph by Amerie Bennett).

The Minister of Environment and Tourism Honorable Pohamba Shifeta announced that 41 people were arrested in suspected cases of rhino poaching from June 2015 to date.

This is after the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) joined forces with the Namibian Police and the Namibian Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) in a sting operation to combat wildlife crimes.
The operation has been deemed successful with old cases being solved, an additional two suspects were arrested in connection with two rhinos which were illegally killed in Iitapa village in 2008. The minister said the poachers operate in syndicates of which the police have identified five with two of them belonging to one person, “We have identified a number of sophisticated syndicates involved in poaching, we know who they are. Most of them involved are small business men, traditional leaders and some members of the public. Whatever they do there is a 95% chance that they will be arrested as we are one step ahead of them,” he said.
“We want to make an example of poachers who feel that they got it right in other countries, they may have managed to get away in other countries but they will not in Namibia. The Namibian police arrested 29 people from areas surrounding Etosha National Park, 22 of the suspects have been charged with illegal hunting of rhinos, the remaining seven suspects’ hearing has been postponed to the 30 th of July, in Okahao Court in the Omusati Region. Among the suspects is one Angolan national. Most of the suspects were arrested in the area of Onamutanga, Uutsathima, Iitapa and Otyenoa and many of them are related to each other, ” said the minister.
The minister also reported that one elephant was shot and wounded by poachers in Bwabwata National Park on 23 June and had to be put down by MET officials. The poacher is said to have escaped to Botswana but members of the Namibian police force confiscated an AK47, a R1 riffle and ammunition of a 375 hunting rifle.
In the Kunene Region one dehorned black rhino was poached in Omatendeka Conservancy on 12 June, five suspects were arrested by the police on the road between Warmquelle and Sesfontein in connection with the crime. The suspects were found with a gun and two fresh rhino horns.
Additionally 32 rifles potentially linked to poaching have been confisticated from Etosha National Park and surrounding areas and two more suspects were arrested in connection to wildlife crimes in the Erongo Region on Wednesday this week. One of suspected rifles with a serial number grinded off was found in the possession of a former MET staff member.
Regarding allegations that some of the poachers are MET staff officials and Etosha National Park members of staff, Shifeta warned that the ministry will not leave any stone unturned and said that the police are still pursuing suspects as there are still more people to be arrested.
“The operation has not ended, first we want to arrest those outside before we come inside. There are some isolated cases, the sweeping is still taking place we will not leave any stone unturned.”
He urged everyone involved in wildlife in Namibia, particularly communities surrounding neighbouring parks or wild life areas to refrain from being lured into poaching and to report such activities to the police as soon as possible.