Namibian wildlife threatened by illegal trade

Namibia’s precious wildlife is under threat from criminals, as illegal wildlife trade has become the world’s fourth-largest form of transnational crime.

This was said by Ana Beatriz Martins, the European Union’s ambassador to Namibia, at a press debriefing for ‘Operation Saving Wildlife through Multilateral Cooperation in Africa’ (Sama) in Windhoek yesterday.

She said dozens of wildlife species have been pushed ever closer to extinction by habitat loss and illegal trade.

“The African continent is particularly impacted by unprecedented levels of wildlife and forest crime, which as a consequence are impacting the climate, degrading vulnerable ecosystems, threatening the livelihoods of local communities, and adversely affecting the tourism sector,” Martins said.

The ambassador said where criminal networks exploit every loophole in the flow of information, legislation, customs and law enforcement, authorities are called to scale up cross-border and multilateral collaboration cooperation, with harmonised responses to wildlife trafficking and illegal logging.

“Collaboration helps improve the sharing of information and intelligence, and effectively tracking the movement of illegal wildlife and forest products,” she told her audience, which included Sam Shivute, the commissioner of the Namibia Revenue Agency (Namra), regional ambassadors, and European delegates.

Martins said collaboration is at the core of Operation Sama, implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“Together with the container control programme, it is one of the EU-funded programmes under the Cross-Regional Wildlife Conservation Project intended to address challenges to wildlife conservation in a holistic manner in eastern and southern Africa, bringing the customs, law enforcement, regional, national and community level to work together,” she said.

Sam Shivute

Martins commended Namibia, one of the most proactive members of Sama, and in particular Namra and the Namibian Police for their leadership and commitment, together with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Nigeria, Gabon and the UNODC’s regional offices.

She said Namra also played an important role in establishing the first Port Control Unit (PCU) at Walvis Bay, which is dedicated to countering illicit trafficking in maritime containers moving through the port.

The Walvis Bay PCU was the first to become operational in southern Africa, supported by the EU and other partners, as part of the UNODC container control programme.

“Sama is part of a more comprehensive approach to fighting wildlife crime in Namibia, in partnership with the UNODC,” she said.

Martins said what makes Operation Sama stand out from previous programmes is that it brought together 35 African countries in a coordinated effort managed by three regional intelligence liaison offices, the UNODC and five customs services representing eastern, western, central and southern Africa, which are Namibia, DRC, Uganda, Nigeria, and Gabon.

“The results speak for themselves – more than 100 confiscations of African endangered species across 19 countries, and several arrests and prosecutions of offenders,” she said.
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