By Elezo Libanda
Katima Mulilo, 18 August – Poachers are now facing the possibility of losing their vehicles upon the conclusion of poaching cases. Despite substantial fines and lengthy prison terms imposed on those responsible for crimes against precious wildlife, these illegal activities continue to escalate. It’s worth noting that criminal syndicates orchestrating poaching operations are highly organized, well-funded, and possess a keen understanding of the legal system’s vulnerabilities. Some syndicate members even have lawyers who strategize their activities and provide legal counsel in case things go awry during their poaching ventures.
These poaching syndicates operate on an international scale, allowing them to swiftly collude with individuals of interest to gather essential information beforehand. They may even receive support from corrupt law enforcement officials, who exchange sensitive information for financial gain and other attractive incentives such as cars and cellphones.
Despite improved collaboration among law enforcement agencies in Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, Zambezi poaching cases are still on the rise. Although arrests, fines, and sentences have been handed out, the poaching syndicates readily recruit or replace members willing to engage in illegal activities in exchange for financial benefits or luxury items.
Effectively curbing poaching requires smart and strategic approaches that surpass the thinking of poachers. These criminal groups are often well-equipped with resources and technology. Anti-poaching units should not only be skilled with firearms but also trained in using the latest sophisticated technology to outsmart these criminals. Many anti-poaching unit members are known by poachers, putting their lives in danger, particularly due to the corrupt law enforcement officials who leak information to them. This fight isn’t as straightforward as it appears from the outside.
In 2017, Namibia introduced stricter penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking. Anyone caught with pangolin scales, rhino horns, or elephant tusks could face fines of up to N$15 million or imprisonment for 15 years, or both. Those attempting to buy or sell these items could be fined N$25 million or imprisoned for 25 years, or both.
Interestingly, it’s often not the key poaching figures who get caught. Frequently, the poaching syndicates operate from a distance, with the actual foot soldiers, or messengers, bearing the brunt of legal consequences due to their inability to afford legal fees.
Poaching is a grave crime classified as organized crime. It’s widely understood that before engaging in poaching, individuals meticulously plan their activities, including the location of the poaching and potential buyers. Legislators are actively working to create robust and effective legislation to bring poachers to justice. There have been reports of poachers exchanging gunfire with each other, resulting in fatal casualties deposited in police mortuaries.
In a previous case, a Katima Mulilo Magistrates Court sentenced a Namibian citizen caught in possession of ivory to a fine of N$50,000 or five years in prison. Additionally, the individual’s vehicle was confiscated by the state. Magistrate Clara Mwilima emphasized the gravity of wildlife crime as a threat to protected species, ecosystems, and the Namibian economy.
For those considering poaching expeditions, the prospect of losing their vehicles should now weigh heavily, as possessing such vehicles is deemed an accessory to the wildlife crimes committed. – Namibia Daily News