NAMIBIA: Police Deny Interpol Ivory Seizure

NO illegal elephant tusks or rhino horns were seized in Namibia during an operation co-ordinated by Interpol in five SADC countries at the beginning of this month, the Namibian Police said this week.

On Monday, Reuters quoted an Interpol statement as saying the global police had seized US$1 million worth of rhino horn and ivory and shut down an illegal ivory factory in a sweep across southern Africa.

The operation, in which 41 people were arrested, was conducted in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia, according to the Reuters report.

But Deputy Commissioner Hophni Hamufungu told The Namibian that Namibia was not among the countries where illegal activities were found.

The operation was conducted on May 13 and 14.

"Taking these illegal items off the market is just the first step," Interpol's Africa wildlife programme, Peter Younger, was quoted as saying.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says rhino poaching world-wide hit a 15-year high last year and Africa only has about 18 000 rhinos left while Sub-Saharan Africa has 690 000 elephant at most, where once there were millions.

Experts say ivory demand in Asia and political instability in Africa are fuelling poaching by international criminal gangs.

"The impact of wildlife crime is wide-ranging," Younger said.

"People are threatened with violence, law enforcement officers have been killed while carrying out their duties, and there is the wider economic impact on a country and therefore the livelihoods of ordinary people."

Rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine, where many people believe it can cure arthritis and fever while ivory is used for carving into dagger-handles and other ornaments.

THE NAMIBIAN - Absalom Shigwedha

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