By Volodymyr Lakomov
FORMER Oshana police commissioner, Ndahanguapo Kashihakumwa, has been appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to head an elite anti-poaching unit, which will be staffed by 495 highly trained officers, who will aim to counter the growing threat of illicit wildlife hunting in Namibia.
The Wildlife Protection Services Division will be dedicated to anti-poaching activities, including active patrols, surveillance, investigations, on-the-job training and retraining, communication and adaptive management.
Its specific main functions will include protecting mainly rhinos and elephants from poaching, while promoting the enforcement of wildlife laws in the country, and alongside neighbouring states, through bilateral agreements.
The unit will also build capacity for wildlife protection, conservation and enforcement of wildlife laws. It will also strengthen law enforcement activities and better prepare the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for the invasion of the country by international syndicates that poach wildlife. The unit will also conduct arrests, seizures and the proper collection of crime scene evidence, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, while enhancing the effective prevention of wildlife crime and the enforcement of national wildlife protection legislation. Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, believes that Kashihakumwa’s vast experience and expertise in security matters, crime prevention and investigation, as well as intelligence, will help the ministry and the country in its fight against poaching. “Commissioner Kashihakumwa is a trained soldier, with experience in military issues. He is a trained police officer, with experience and in the police and policing work. He is a trained commander, a trained leader and he is also trained in intelligence gathering,” Shifeta said. The minister said the unit will not be solely responsibility for anti-poaching activities, but will have to work with the police, the Namibian Defence Force and other government law enforcement entities.
“From near extinction in the 1960s, Namibia has a healthy and viable population of black rhinos. White rhinos that were extinct in Namibia were re-introduced and their numbers are also increasing steadily, both in national parks and on freehold land. Our elephant population has more than doubled, from about 7 500 in 1995 to 22 000 to date,” Shifeta said, while highlighting the country’s conservation successes. He also addressed the increase in poaching incidents in this year. There have been 24 incidents of rhino poaching – 14 in the Etosha National Park, seven in Kunene and three on freehold land, so far this year.
Shifeta said that this has led to Cabinet re-organising the ministry’s anti-poaching staff. Responding to questions about international poaching syndicates, Environment and Tourism Permanent Secretary,
Dr Malan Lindeque, said formal arrangements were in place with neighbouring countries to share information about these activities. “On the SADC level, there’s also close coordination on this matter, especially between conservation authorities and the police, and there’s also the United Nations that has a specialised agency on organised crime, which assists with a broader international focus,” he said. Lindeque also indicated that the ministry would be making announcements shortly about rewards for those coming forward with information about poachers. “Social media can be helpful to us, so that the information can be acquired in a timely manner. There will be substantial reward announced through media outlets, for information regarding suspicious registration numbers (in national parks and other poaching areas) or (suspicious) activities.”
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