Govt loses N$1b in revenue to illegal wildlife trading
Government has lost out on collecting about N$1 billion in revenue to illegal wildlife trading of the country’s rarest and highest-valued species over the last two years, The Villager can reveal.
Higher-valued species such as elephants, rhinos and buffaloes have suffered as targets in this illegal trade as bidders target rhino horns and elephant tusks, while government loses out on collecting N$0.5 billion annually from the trade.
The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta told The Villager this week that government generally makes about N$1.5 billion from the trophy-hunting of rhino, with one rhino generating revenue of between N$670 000 and N$700 000.
“According to the United States of America (USA) in terms of value, rhino horns are charged per kilogram. The value will be between 10kg to 12kg, and it can cost about N$65 000/kg. A full-grown rhino bull’s horn can be 12kg”, Shifeta explained.
He noted that despite buffaloes being a part of the higher-valued species, the country has not lost any buffaloes to illegal wildlife trading.
The elephant population stands at 24 000 in the country, with 24 elephants having been lost due to poaching in the past two years.
Research, however, showed that 116 elephants and 10 rhinos had been poached in the country between 2012 and May 2014.
Meanwhile, poachers killed 12 rhinos in Namibia’s Etosha National Park and in the North-Western Kunene. In addition, 11 elephants were poached this year alone in the North-Eastern Zambezi and Kavango East Regions.
According to Save the Rhino Trust, 1750 black rhinos live in Namibia out of the 4800 global population, whilst 469 are white rhinos.
“Our poaching situation is not so bad when compared to our neighbouring countries. Illegal hunting in the country has been put under control.
The rhino population is mostly in the Etosha National Park but in the last month or so, we saw no cases of rhino poaching. The poaching case which happened recently was at a private farm in Okahandja in the Otjozondjupa region. We also had another poaching case in the Kunene region, but the culprits were arrested,” Shifeta added.
Meanwhile, in order to tackle and curb illegal wildlife trading, government established a National Wildlife Protection and Security Committee.
This committee is set to unite relevant stakeholders in the private, public and civil society sectors to work out and implement strategies to curb wildlife-related crimes.
Shifeta said mechanisms have been put in place for more law-enforcement officers, specifically for wildlife crime prevention.
Government will be applying rules which need to be adhered to, and simultaneously recheck the programmes already set up.
“We have other ways to curb illegal wildlife trading, but we do not want to mention them because of security reasons. We do not want the people committing these crimes to be aware of our measures, and thus be ready. Things pertaining to illegal wildlife trading are under control for now,” he stated.
Government is furthermore trying to work out ways to cut out the middlemen using locals to poach these high-valued species.
“We know for a fact that there is no market for rhino horns or elephant tusks in the country. Thus, the middlemen cannot be locals, but rather people from other countries. We are working on ways to eliminate the middlemen in this whole equation,” Shifeta stressed.
If illegal wildlife trading is not curbed, it will lead to a loss of income and jobs to the communities who directly benefit from it, as well as the whole wildlife conservation effort would be at risk.
Communities profit through the sustainable utilisation by engaging in activities such as eco-tourism and consumptive utilisation, which result in job-creation and income-generation.
Just from hunting and game sales since 1998 to date, the income received was about N$161 million (U$20.5 million).
This is just under half of the total benefit returns which conservancies generated, which was N$371 million (US$47 million).
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue