… As international smuggling routes are exposed
By Volodymyr Lakomov
AN elite unite, staffed withformer liberation struggle soldiers and headed by former police commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa is taking the battle to poachers in the Etosha National Park, bringing deadly skills which won the war against apartheid.
This comes as Namibia finds itself on the edge of a crisis, as its rhino, elephant and other wildlife populations are under increasing threat from international criminal syndicates, which are shipping illicit animal products to Vietnam, China and Thailand.
Namibia holds approximately 28 percent of the world’s remaining 5 000 black rhino. With the growing incidents of poaching in 2017, these critically endangered animals may be wiped out by 2020, leaving Namibia and the rest of the Southern African region without a magnetising source of tourism income.
Kashihakumwa, who is former Oshana police commissioner and the commander of the Anti-Poaching Foundation of Etosha National Park, which is trained by his Tobias Hainyeko Security Training Academy, said in an in-depth interview with Confidente that he had assembled a team of former PLAN fighters, committed to curbing poaching practices in the Etosha Park.
By blending in with the community, the team, which has been operating since 2015, can collect important information about the whereabouts of poachers.
Kashihakumwa believes that through building relationships with the community, by engendering trust and open communication, poaching can be defeated.
“Some of us were freedom fighters and we understand that no war can be won without the support of the public,” explains the commander.
“For the similar war we are waging against poachers, we need the participation and the full partaking from the members of the public.”
Without revealing names, Kashihakumwa said that corrupt high-profile officials are colluding with organised crime syndicates to finance the guns and transport used by poachers, as well as their accommodation near poaching sites.
Kashihakumwa said he founded the Tobias Hainyeko Security Training Academy, which is an institution dedicated to training security officers within all structures of Namibian society.
“There’s a major need to transform private security businesses, because in many cases, they fail to assist government institutions.”
Kashihakumwa said that one of the reasons why Namibia is suffering from an escalation in poaching is because of unscreened recruits.
“Some of them become facilitators or collaborators in criminal activity. One day they commit a crime, and another they wear a uniform.”
The academy ensures that anti-poaching officers are well-trained, fully equipped and remain committed to wildlife protection.
“The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, has sent us personal acknowledgement for our initiative,” Kashihakumwa said.
In 2015, he led an operation that ended in the arrest of 48 poachers, including four Chinese rhino horn exporters. Kashihakumwa believes that privatisation of anti-poaching institutions is the best way to address the problem, as well as changing the mentality of Namibians towards the country’s wildlife resources.
“Rhinos represent the beauty of this country. We feel that without them, we lose something symbolically.”
He believes that the privatisation of the anti-poaching battle will help in nabbing poachers, and track down the criminal hierarchy responsible, without being obstructed by officials involved in criminal syndicates.
Syndicates and illegal markets
The reason why poaching is a never-ending problem, is due to the consistent demand for rhino horns in countries like Vietnam and China.
Despite the countries signing international memorandums against poaching, their black markets still serve as a tremendous arena for horn trafficking.
In Southeast Asia, the rhino horn serves as a luxurious commodity with multiple utilities. In China, the rhino horn is used as a vital ingredient in traditional medicine, believed to be capable of curing severe illnesses.
In Vietnam, the powder from rhino horns is believed to possess the power to immediately detoxify body from alcohol, and also serves as a party drug and as a mystical tonic for good health.
According to the International Trade Centre, since 2007, the surge in rhino horn demand from Asian countries is also linked to the region’s rapid industrialisation, with the number of multimillionaires growing by 150 percent in Vietnam alone.
Moreover, due to colossal air pollution, the local populations experience more cases of cancer with many turning to traditional medicine, which incorporates the rhino powder.
It has also reported that while travelling to Southern African countries, Chinese delegations, including those led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, allegedly acquire large stocks of rhino horn and ivory as souvenirs.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015