Getting up from behind their desks and moving away from Facebook activism, many Namibians, including school children eager to fight for the safekeeping of their country’s natural heritage, showed up this week demonstrated against the surge of rhino poaching in Namibia.
The protestors held up placards that voiced their passion for wildlife – in particular their firm stance that Namibia’s rhinos – black and white – must be protected at all costs from the brutal and merciless attention of rhino poaching and smuggling syndicates.
Spurred on by the passion of Dave Weeks of Bushwhackers, a group of private Namibian citizens today gathered in the first peaceful protest against the escalation of rhino poaching in Namibia at Zoo Gardens in Windhoek to voice their concerns and to state their zero tolerance against poachers and smugglers.
The protest was also timed to coincide with the ongoing bail application proceedings taking place at the Katutura magistrates court of three Chinese nationals who were caught in possession of 14 rhino horns and a leopard skin while on their way out of the country. The protestors want the state to keep the smugglers behind bars, to set an example of zero tolerance for the crime syndicates.
DNA tests have in the meantime proved that the rhino horns originate from Namibian rhino and evidence from a police officer has revealed that the three men are allegedly part of a rhino smuggling syndicate in the country.
Dave (who also showed up last week with a placard at the Katutura magistrate’s court) said at today’s protest that the protest was organised in part to ensure that the Chinese men are not granted bail, as it would be no surprise that they would quickly vanish and not be available for their court hearings.
He added that the Chinese should be made an example off and that things should not escalate to the rate of rhino poaching in South Africa. He emphasised that Namibia’s wildlife crime laws must be amended to fit the crime, as they are currently too lenient. “We hope that our protest will help the cause”.
But Dave and his fellow protestors are not relying soleley on placards and posters. He is also organising various other awareness campaigns, and is putting out monetary awards for information via all the language radio stations across the country. Anyone who gives law authorities information that leads to successful convictions of poachers or smugglers will receive stately monetary rewards.
Bushwackers will also challenge companies to match their rewards.
Hans Rack, famed photogapher who has worked closely with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) for close to two decades, was at the protest today.
He said its everyone’s duty to help create public awareness on the issue which is getting out of control and added that hopefully the protest and other initiatives would help law officials apply the law strictly.
Anja Denker, a passionate conservationist, said that the protest offered a chance for everyone to move away from armchair conservation and to be more pro-active. “Every Namibian should be a voice and custodian of our wildlife”.