THE elephant was killed with an automatic weapon. Spent cartridges were still to be found in the sand, just 500 metres south of the Angolan border in Caprivi’s Bwabwata National Park. She was one of nine elephants killed for their tusks in the last few months in the park. A five year old female. A tragedy.
Bolan Zingolo is a ranger with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). The park rangers found the carcass recently on a routine patrol. Last Wednesday’s trek into the bush was joined by a journalist from Germany’s Bild newspaper. Kai Feldhause was spending time with the rangers to hear the good news about the Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation area, popularly known as the KAZA trans-frontier park. The poaching came as a nasty shock.
Journalist Kai Feldhaus was dismayed to hear how the tusks were hacked from the young elephant with an axe. The rangers explained that some locals must have been involved, either as hunters or trackers, in order to satisfy the international demand for ivory. Just weeks before, a Chinese national was caught in Katima Mulilo buying tusks.
Despite Namibia’s recent success in reducing poaching, the number of elephants killed for their tusks in other African countries has recently soared. It was only a matter of time before Namibia was targeted again
KAZA is a joint initiative between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As the conservation area develops there will be joint anti-poaching patrols across borders. It’s already happening between Zambia and Namibia, but it will take time before Angola steps up its own anti-poaching measures.
Namibia has been highly successful in combating poaching over recent years, largely because of communal conservancies, which employ game guards to protect wildlife. As more tourists visit Namibian conservancy areas to see the big five, more income goes to local people, who are more likely to tip off game guards about suspected poachers. It’s a model that other KAZA countries are looking at with interest, and that’s why Bild has splashed the story on its pages.
But sadly, the border with Angola is long, and hard to police. The battle to control poaching spreads well beyond KAZA, and all the way to China and other countries where ivory is still sought after.
Bwabwata National Park is a model of its kind. Local people, many of them San, still live in the park and co-manage it with the MET through the Kaymaracan Trust. The locals earn money from the park with tourism ventures and sustainable use of wildlife: trophy hunting is allowed in line with strict quotas. The money earned pays the game guards’ salaries, and experienced San trackers are a considerable asset to the MET ranger staff. Overall, wildlife numbers are increasing.