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Martin, E.B., 1993. Rhino poaching in Namibia from 1980 to 1990 and the illegal trade in the horn. Pachyderm 17: 39-51, figs. 1-5, tables 1-5

Location: Africa - Southern Africa - Namibia
Subject: Distribution - Records
Species: Black Rhino

Original text on this topic:
The dry regions of Damaraland and Kaokoland together referred to as the Kaokoveld in northwest Namibia are home to the desert black rhinos. Because of the aridity of the area and therefore the general lack of browse, they move long distances for food and water, probably more than any other rhino population in Africa.
In 1970 there were at least 250 and possibly 350 black rhinos in the Kaokoveld, but by the end of the decade, most of them had been killed by poachers (Garth Owen-Smith, presently Director of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, pers. comm.). From 1975 to 1981, Hereros and Himbas used mainly .303 rifles to kill these animals. The buyers, who paid from 50 to 200 rands ($63 to $250) for a pair of horns, were farmers in the Kamanjab district, garage owners in the town of Outjo, as well as civil servants and businessmen in Okahandja, Swakopmund and Windhoek (Rudi Loutit, Senior Conservation Officer for Nature Conservation, North West region, pers. comm.). From Namibia, the horns were sent mostly to South Africa, especially to Krugersdorp and Pretoria. From there, the horns were exported to eastern Asia, especiall to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
This intensive poaching of the desert rhinos, and to a lesser extent drought, greatly reduced their numbers so that by 1982, only 66 remained. The population, in recent times, had never before been so low. In that year, Garth Owen-Smith, who had previously been working in Etosha, was appointed by the Namibia Wildlife Trust to be the Senior Field Officer for Kaokoland and Damaraland. His main duties were to encourage the Damaras and Hercros to participate in wildlife conservation and to assist the greatly understaffed Nature Conservation Department with their anti-poaching activities. At the time of his appointment, there was only one government Nature Conservator (Chris Eyre) who was based at Khorixas and his Herero assistant (with no one stationed in Kaokoland) to patrol the whole Kaokoveld, an area of nine million hectares, four times larger than Kruger National Park. It was a scandalous state of negligence by the government authorities. No wonder that so many rhinos had been killed illegally. Soon after Garth Owen-Smith joined, the Namibia Wildlife Trust employed a fulltime staff of four. The Trust spent most of its effort on setting up a community game guard system which actively involved the local community in nature conservation, and on patrolling in the western Kaokoland and Damaraland, the main locations for the rhino. From 1982 to early 1984 with assistance from the Trust, the Nature Conservation Department convicted 35 people in 16 cases of poaching or illegal possession of rhino horn and ivory (G. OwenSmith, `Namibia's Most Valuable Resource', Quagga, no. 7, Spring 1984, pp. 10- 11).
In 1982 one dealer, the owner of a garage, was arrested by the police with 68 rhino horns. He was, however, only fined effectively 2,000 rands, a fraction of the value of the horns. This middleman was found in possession also of uncut diamonds and for this he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. It was -unfortunate that the judges did not also take poaching of the highly endangered desert rhino seriously. At this time, Garth Owen-Smith also developed a scheme of obtaining co-operation from the local people of the area, which has proved to be very effective and is being studied by conservationists in many parts of Africa. Specifically, his activities focused on involving the local population and thereby stopping them from poaching, as well as using their expertise such as tracking skills and local knowledge, to discourage or catch poachers corning in from the outside (G. Owen-Smith, pers. comm.). In 1983, headmen of regions with rhino poaching were asked to appoint their own,game guards who were to patrol regularly the waterholes and cheek for arfy unusual activities. This worked very well. By early 1984 six auxiliary game guards were operating in northern Damaraland and western Kaokoland.
After the introduction of these anti-poaching efforts, poaching of desert rhinos decreased sharply. In 1982 only two fresh carcasses were found (a cow and a calf which had been illegally killed) (G. Owen-Smith, pers. comm.). The following year several Hereros from Sesfontein shot three rhinos with .303 rifles. They sold the horns to middlemen for about 150 to 200 rands ($140 to $188) a pair. The middlemen probably sent some of the horns to Swakopmund and then to adjoining Walvis Bay for sale to eastern Asia. In 1984 only one rhino was poached and this was by a Damara who was a farmer and a local government employee (R. Loutit, pers. comm.).
In the early 1980s, two men, a farmer and a garage owner, were the main buyers of these horns. The garage Owner, as mentioned above, was caught dealing in diamonds and rhino horn, and was jailed. He reportedly ground up some of the horn inside his garage and exported the powder to Hong Kong (Tommy Hall, Principal Nature Conservation Officer, Damaraland, pers. comm.). The farmer was never caught, however, and could still be trading horn.
Between 1985 and 1988 only two black rhinos were poached in the Kaokoveld. This success was due to several factors. The number of auxiliary game guards was increased (the Endangered Wildlife Trust was supporting ten of these men in 1988). These guards regularly liaised with Garth Owen-Smith, Blythe Loutit (Director of Save the Rhino Trust), and officials of the Directorate of Nature Conservation in anti-poaching work and in obtaining in- formation about poachers and traders. Senior officers of the Nature Conservation Department, especially Rudi Loutit and Tommy Hall also worked closely with everybody involved in protecting the desert black rhinos.
In 1989, poaching increased once again in the northwest of Namibia when seven animals were slaughtered. One of the reasons for this was the massive unemployment in the area, exacerbated by the return to the country of thousands of political refugees, plus the partial redundancy of many men formerly employed by the South West African Territory Force. Also, many more firearms became available. In the early 1980s between 1,500 and 3,000 .303 rifles were distributed to local headmen by the South African Defence Force and many were used for illegal hunting (G. Owen-Smith, pers. comm.). In addition, in 1987 and 1988 around 1,000 G3 rifles were handed out to people in Kaokoland by the government as part of their counter-insurgency strategv. But probably most importantly, in 1989 middlemen realized the high value of rhino horn in South Africa and eastern Asia and thus offered poachers over three times more for rhino horn than in 1982 (500 to 800 rands for a pair of black rhino horns or $460 to $740) (R. Loutit, pers. comm.).
One man in particular responded to this increased financial incentive and killed five of the seven poached animals in the Kaokoveld in 1989. He was a 25-year-old farmer originally from Rehoboth, over 800 kms away, but his father often took him to Damaraland so he was familiar with the area. This farmer employed several Damaras who spent a fortnight looking for rhinos. When they were found, the farmer himself shot five of them with a G3 rifle, as well as nine to 14 elephants, in the Klip River and Otjihavera areas. Some of the horn may have been sold to traders in Okhandja. Soon afterwards, this poacher was arrested, convicted and sentenced to nine years or a 1 5,000 rand fine plus five years community service (R. Loutit and T. Hall, comm.).
The other two black rhinos killed in northwest Namibia were shot in separate areas, one near Etosha by Hereros and the other by two young Hereros from Sesfontein who sold the horns to an official in Sesfontein. This man in turn sold the horns to a person in Opuwa, the capital of Kaokoland. Both poachers from this latter incident were caught and convicted.
Partly because of these new official policies carried out in 1989, the number of black rhinos poached the following year declined to only two. The first poachers were two young Damaras from Khorixas (one of whom was a senior employee of Save the Rhino Trust) who went by vehicle searching for rhinos. When they found a male, they shot him and attempted to blow off his horns with pellets from a 12 gauge shotgun. They took the horns to Swakopmund to sell (Sharon Montgomery of Save the Rhino Trust and R. Loutit, pers. comm.).
The second in 1990 was the most pathetic poaching incident for many years. Two Damara farmers went up to a mother and calf near Twyfelfontein. They picked up some stones and threw them at the six-month-old calf, eventually killing it, while the mother stood by watching this appalling sight. The men then cut off some pieces of flesh from the neck and shoulder to eat. In Namibia, eating rhino meat is virtually unheard of. The baby rhino of course had no horns. The poachers were quickly caught and sentenced to 30 months each with half of the term suspended which meant an effective imprisonment of only 15 months. Garth Owen-Smith believes that the punishment was appropriate as no commercial motive was established (G. OwenSmith, pers. comm.). The editors of The Windhoek Advertiser, a local newspaper, were so incensed by this insignificant punishment, however, that they published a leader in the 13 April 1991 issue stating: `...when one looks at the sentences meted out this week in respect of two grown men who stoned to death a black rhino calf, one's senses are outraged. At the risk of committing contempt of court, we state today that a magistrate handing down a sentence like that should be removed from the bench!'

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