Working together to Combat Wildlife Crime

The Combatting Wildlife Crime Project (CWCP) in Namibia, seeks to counter growing threats from transnational wildlife crime to globally important populations of rhino and elephant in Namibia. The collective impact of the CWCP aims to see an increase of rhino populations in Namibia and promotion of cross-border movement and stabilised elephant populations in KAZA.

A baseline survey was conducted by the CWCP Project Officer- Vistorina Amputu and WWF in Namibia’s Communications Officer- Siphiwe Lutibezi, to assess the interaction between conservation law enforcement officials and communities within the rhino landscape (north west Namibia) and in the elephant landscape (Namibia KAZA). The interviewees included the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) Chief Wardens, Wardens and Rangers. This was in order to understand how officials at different levels engage with communities.

Through the CWCP there has been increased awareness on wildlife crime in the communities and this has caused communities living with wildlife to have a better understanding of the importance of protecting these species, which led to them proactively reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement officials.

In the elephant landscape, the survey indicated that most information that led to arrests of poachers came from community members. The positive cross border relations within the KAZA region has led to good collaboration with law enforcement officials and communities in different countries in the fight against wildlife crime. There is a high demand for anti-poaching support from the communities.  In the rhino landscape, according to law enforcement officials, the communities understand the benefits of wildlife and most are against poaching, although those that are not in conservancies are still reluctant to share information and report cases.

Even though there are positive interactions between the officials and communities, there are still challenges that the conservation law enforcement officers are faced with. The major one being transport, this limits their response time when suspicious activities have been reported or when there are human-wildlife conflict incidents. Network reception in some areas is an issue because reporting incidents from the field may take a while.

The law enforcement officials note that the engagement with the communities is positive, especially in conservancy areas, and this is largely attributed to the success of the CBNRM programme in Namibia, where locals are given rights to manage their wildlife. Conservancy residents fully understand the benefits of wildlife and work well together to combat crime in their areas. In conservancies, poaching is usually not done by locals in the area but by outsiders who do not care about the importance and benefits obtained from these animals.

There is more work that needs to be done in combatting wildlife crime in the country, but the beginning has so far brought about positive changes. The survey was a helpful tool to gauge the community support to law enforcement in combatting wildlife crime.

ENVIRONMENT WATCH

Every week we bring you current stories about climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. This week the Namibian newspaper reported that the government is to auction 1,000 wild animals from national parks due to drought. Although drought is recurrent in Namibia, the evidence of climate change affecting Africa grows monthly, with increased risks of flooding, as well as drought.

Worldwide it is reported that swings in temperature, bringing episodes of cold as well as extreme heat, are increasing the use of fossil fuels, and contributing yet more carbon to the atmosphere. The result, according to the Namibian is that rain fed crops are susceptible to drought in SADC countries, leading to lower food production, and the Climate News Network reports that extreme heat could become a killer in African cities.

Siphiwe Lutibezi

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