Open Let­ter: China’s Wildlife Crimes in Namibia

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL -

In this Open Let­ter to China’s Am­bas­sador Xin Shunkang, Dr Chris Brown, CEO of the Namib­ian Cham­ber of En­vi­ron­ment, de­mands that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment takes re­spon­si­bil­ity and lead­er­ship in ad­dress­ing the il­le­gal trade in wildlife and com­mits to stop­ping all wildlife crimes per­pe­trated by its na­tion­als in Namibia.

Dear Am­bas­sador Xin Shunkang,

Dur­ing the past month, sev­eral Chi­nese na­tion­als have been ap­pre­hended and charged with wildlife crimes, in­clud­ing il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of rhino horn, ivory and pan­golin skins and scales.

Your em­bassy is on record stat­ing that “it will not al­low a few of its na­tion­als who have been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with poach­ing to tar­nish its coun­try’s im­age.”

While we rec­og­nize that not all Chi­nese na­tion­als are in­volved in wildlife crimes, Namibia’s en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity be­lieves that the sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing Chi­nese na­tion­als com­mit­ting wildlife crimes in Namibia is far more se­ri­ous and broad-based than you have ac­knowl­edged.

The fact is, un­less ef­fec­tive ac­tion is taken now to halt wildlife crime, your coun­try will get an in­creas­ingly bad name. And you and your coun­try are best placed to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Un­til the ar­rival of Chi­nese na­tion­als in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers in Namibia, com­mer­cial wildlife crime was ex­tremely low. As Chi­nese na­tion­als moved into all re­gions of Namibia, set­ting up busi­nesses, net­works, ac­quir­ing min­eral prospect­ing li­censes and of­fer­ing pay­ment for wildlife prod­ucts, the in­ci­dence of poach­ing, il­le­gal wildlife cap­ture, col­lec­tion, killing and ex­port has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially.

Driv­ing our coun­try’s wildlife to ex­tinc­tion

Chi­nese na­tion­als have been in­volved in, and/ or are the com­mer­cial driv­ers be­hind:

• the es­ca­lat­ing poach­ing of rhi­nos and ele­phants in Namibia and the il­le­gal ex­port of rhino horn and ivory,

• the cap­ture, trade and ex­port of pan­golins, • the im­port of Chi­nese monofil­a­ment nets in in­dus­trial quan­ti­ties via Zam­bia to the north­east of Namibia, which are de­stroy­ing the fish­eries of the Zam­bezi, Chobe, Kwando and Oka­vango Rivers,

• the un­sus­tain­able com­mer­cial­iza­tion of fish­eries in th­ese north-eastern rivers and wet­land sys­tems for ex­port to cities and towns in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries,

• the cap­ture and killing of Carmine Beeeaters at their breed­ing colonies by means of nets,

• the rise in bush-meat poach­ing wher­ever Chi­nese na­tion­als are work­ing on road con­struc­tion and other in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing tor­toises, mon­i­tor lizards, pythons and any other form of wild meat, in­clud­ing from pro­tected and en­dan­gered species, • the il­le­gal col­lec­tion of shell­fish on the

Namib­ian coast,

• the il­le­gal tran­sit through Namibia and at­tempted ex­port of poached abalone from Cape wa­ters through Namib­ian ports.

We are also aware of long-stand­ing in­ter­ests by some Chi­nese na­tion­als to start a shark fin

in­dus­try in Namibia, a prac­tice that has caused wide­spread dam­age to shark pop­u­la­tions in many parts of the world, in­clud­ing in South Africa.

And more re­cently, Chi­nese na­tion­als have pro­posed to cap­ture marine mam­mals and seabirds for the Asian aquar­ium mar­ket.

The Namib­ian sci­en­tific and en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­ni­ties have strongly re­jected this pro­posal on sound conservation and eth­i­cal grounds, as has the Namib­ian pub­lic.

We are con­cerned by an ap­par­ent to­tal dis­re­gard by some Chi­nese na­tion­als for Namibia’s wildlife, conservation, and an­i­mal wel­fare laws and val­ues. Namib­ians are proud of their en­vi­ron­men­tal her­itage, their rich wildlife re­sources and the in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms that are in place to sus­tain­ably man­age them.

Namibia as a na­tion has worked hard to pro­tect and nur­ture th­ese nat­u­ral as­sets. Namibia’s wildlife man­age­ment pro­vides an in­ter­na­tional ex­am­ple for good conservation and sus­tain­able use. We have not made th­ese in­vest­ments so that some Chi­nese na­tion­als, or any­one else, can pil­lage them.

Adding in­sult to in­jury

The il­le­gal com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of some Chi­nese na­tion­als to­wards Namibia’s pro­tected wildlife has ex­ploited the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of poor Namib­ians and di­vided so­ci­eties. It un­der­mines lo­cal own­er­ship of nat­u­ral re­sources and the em­pow­er­ment of com­mu­ni­ties to man­ag­ing

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