Rhino poachers prowl eastward

Suspects found wandering in the district of Steinhausen on Easter Sunday

Niël Terblanché

WALVIS BAY – The arrest of three suspected rhino poachers in the Omaheke Region over the Easter weekend by farm workers indicates that a new poaching front is opening in East and North-East of Namibia after the North-Western areas of the country and Etosha suffered a severe decline in rhino numbers at the hands of poachers.

According to the Omahake Regional Crime Investigations Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Chris Kalimbula, the suspects were apprehended when they were found wandering in the district of Steinhausen on Easter Sunday.

“The quick reaction of farm workers saw the suspected poachers being arrested on the farm east of Windhoek on Sunday. The suspects told farm workers that they got lost in the farming area,” explained Kalimbula.

Farmer Holger Witsack said his workers alerted him to the fact that the poachers were apprehended after two workers from a neighbouring farm saw the strangers in the bushes.

“My neighbour’s workers were on their way to visit my employees on Sunday when they came across two men walking in the bush. When the suspects saw the workers, they started running but after a short distance they attempted to hide in the bush. They ran after the strangers and confronted them. When the strangers started telling the workers that they were lost, they decided to detain them and look for help,” said Witsack.

He said his workers informed him of the two strangers on the farm.

“After listening to their explanation of getting lost, we almost let them go free but the workers told us that they would not have run away if they were lost. We then went back to spot where the workers apprehended the men and on the way there one of them tried to escape by jumping from the back of the vehicle. The man was recaptured and we found their rifle, ammunition, homemade axe and a ramrod hidden under some bushes,” he recalls.

He said the police was summoned to the farm and after further interrogation by officers, the suspected poachers confessed that they were supposed to meet their informant on a nearby hunting farm where it was expected that they would kill rhinos for their horns.

“From there we went to the hunting farm and the worker who was supposed to help the poachers was also taken into custody,” said Witsack.

Deputy Commissioner Kalimbula said the suspects did not shoot any game and were eventually charged with the possession of an illegal fire arm, possession of illegal ammunition and trespassing on private property. The suspects are being detained at the Hosea Kutako International Airport police station and have already made their first appearance in court.

The case was postponed to the 24 May this year for further investigation.

Military grade ammunition from former Communist Bloc countries, an older model Soviet-made rifle with a home-made suppressor, a makeshift axe and a roll of tinfoil were confiscated from the three suspected rhino poachers.

COLLARED: The three suspects and the weapons that were found. Photos contributed