The Namibian

by Arlana Shikongo

Elephant, pangolin crimes still highest. Photo: worldwildlife.org

MORE than half of 363 suspects arrested for animal poaching or trafficking in 2020 were apprehended for crimes involving high-value animal species.

This includes rhino, elephant and pangolin, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

Information provided shows 38 suspects were arrested in connection with elephant poaching or trafficking, 92 for rhino poaching or trafficking and 63 for pangolin trafficking between 1 January and 31 July.

These arrests comprises 53% of the 363 poaching or trafficking suspects arrested in 2020.

The data indicates 251 of all arrested suspects are in custody or awaiting trial, while 76 are out on bail and 18 have been convicted in this period.

Five suspects were let off on a warning while four absconded; three suspects’ cases or charges were withdrawn and one suspect was acquitted.

Five suspects’ legal statuses are classified as unknown.

During this period, 141 cases have been ongoing, 10 have been finalised, one has not been solved and one has been struck from the court roll.

Over the last three years, fewer than a quarter of arrests have led to convictions.

In the first quarter of 2020, less than 25 of the 200 suspects arrested for wildlife crimes were convicted.

The second quarter of the year proved the same.

It is impossible for the ministry to say how many high-value species animals have been poached this year “as we may not have found all the poached rhino and elephant carcasses yet”, ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda says.

“Regarding the pangolins, it is literally impossible to know how many were picked up from their habitat, as we will never find any carcasses in the field for obvious reasons, so we will never know how many were collected and consumed locally and how many were exported illegally outside Namibia.

“We can only know the number of seized skins and live animals,” he said.