Open Letter: China’s Wildlife Crimes in Namibia
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
• 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