By Maria Kandjungu
THE Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) has imported four dogs from Holland as part of the Ministry’s anti-poaching and wildlife protection initiatives. Acquired at a cost of N$ 240 000 in May this year, the four German shepherd dogs were procured from vendors in Holland for their superior genetics and development. The dogs are currently going through detection and tracking training through the Invictus K9, with the help of the Namibia Defence Force’s Special Reserve Unit. The canines are being trained on how to search buildings, vehicles, baggages and open areas for firearms, ammunition and illegal wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horns, pangolin scales and game meat. The dogs are capable of tracking down human scents and associated substances from start to finish over a variety of different terrains during the day and night. 16 weeks into the training, the dogs have already helped with the arrest of one poacher who was arrested in the Etosha National Park. They have also assisted in detection and confiscation of firearms and ammunition and game meat at different parks during their training process. Speaking at the inauguration of the MET’s Dog Unit for Wildlife Protection of Law Enforcement, Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta stated that the ministry started exploring the potential of using dogs in combating poaching activities in 2017 through a partnership with Invictus K9. Invictus K9 specialises in the establishment and support of law-enforcement canine units. According to the minister, funding was acquired from various sources including Save the Rhino International and the United States. The three male dogs and one female dog named Alex, Beno, Baron and Nora, were then brought to Namibia to start the training in May. “We are confident that this will be a formidable unit in the fight against wildlife crime now and in the future. They will make a measurable, tangible difference toward augmenting current law enforcement and conservation initiatives,” Shifeta stated. The minister also pointed out that the ministry is considering procuring additional three to four dogs next year and deploy them at different parks. Shifeta further stated that the ministry will look into an option of using horses as some places in the different parks are not reachable by vehicles. The Minister said that the Dog Unit will be used in the Etosha and Bwabwata National Park and all conservation areas and strategic points such as airports and border posts to fight wildlife crime. “We will grow this Dog Unit to a level that we want in order to effectively and efficiently cover all the areas,” the minister said. USA’s Ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson pointed out that Namibia is not ‘poachers free’ and the US government is ready and committed to assist the Environment Ministry’s efforts to address this persistent threat. “I am especially pleased that the U.S government has been able to collaborate with the ministry to launch this programme through the purchase and training of the dogs, as well as supplies and equipment for the dogs and dog handlers,” Johnson said. Johnson said this is one of the projects her government is funding in Namibia as they are also funding other ongoing wildlife projects at the cost of more than U$20 million.“Our support is aimed at balancing both the enforcement and the human side of conservation efforts. We want to stamp out poaching and illegal trafficking that harms Namibia’s economy and abate other criminal activities. At the same time, we want to ensure that the rights and needs of Namibian who live in proximity to wildlife are protected,” the Ambassador stated.
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