Omaruru farmer Francois Kotze was in a high speed pursuit of a vehicle full of poachers and hunting dogs with game meat last weekend.
Neither a chase, nor a roadblock, were able to stop the criminals as they broke through the barriers and raced to Omaruru, where they managed to flee the vehicle before it came to a standstill.
“It happened so quickly. They were gone the second we got to the car,” Kotze said.
They discovered six dogs in the car: four in the boot, with meat from an oryx that had just been poached, and two in the car.
Two dogs ran away and one was killed after being hit by a truck.
Two assegais were also found in the car, as well as the driver’s wallet and personal documents.
“The driver handed himself in the next day. He still had blood on his shoes. However, he did not reveal the others’ names. The dogs were handed to the SPCA,” said Kotze, adding that the meat was given to the SPCA and the needy in the community.
Kotze said, the poachers use dogs, trained to herd the wild game and corner the frightened animals.
“These dogs are their biggest weapons – better than professional hunters with guns,” Kotze said.
“Once they corner an animal, the poachers shine flashlights in the animal’s eyes to distract it, for another poacher to come from the side and stab the animal to death with an assegai.”
Kotze said he could lose between 50 and 100 game to poaching annually, sometimes two to three a night, several times a week.
Kotze said despite best efforts from the police, who are constrained by resources, the menace continues unabated.
Farmers in Namibia’s central area are losing cattle and game daily to poachers and rustlers, amounting to damages in the millions of dollars just this year. The communities of the Erongo and Otjozondjupa regions, including in the Omaruru, Kalkfeld, Otjiwarongo and Waterberg areas, have been particularly hard hit for years.
Besides Kotze’s loss, Poen Brink lost his seventh animal since June on Tuesday, when a Swiss bull was slaughtered.
This is less than a week after The Namibian reported how Brink lost a show bull worth N$100 000 to rustlers.
“They cut the ankle sinews off, so the bull could not escape, and they murdered him. I will have to take a decision about my farming,” he said.
The Kochs at Klein Okombahe near Kalkfeld also reported recurrent instances of the poaching of pregnant cows. Last week, they lost three pregnant cows to rustlers. This week, they lost another two.
“They only left the heads and legs behind, and the unborn calves,” Albert Koch noted, infuriated by a system where the prime suspect is repeatedly set free. Erongo police commander, commissioner Nikolaus Kupembona, confirmed the incident, and said the police are still investigating the incident.
Namibia Agricultural Union executive council member Gunther Kahl described slaughtering and poaching as a crisis, alongside the theft of infrastructure, which affected Volker Kraft, who lost five water pumps to thieves in a single night about a week ago.
Farmers, increasingly feeling the pressure, are pleading for higher penalties, improved policing, and a swifter justice system to stem the tide of theft and poaching that is threatening their way of life and, by extension, the country’s food security.
“There are even CCTV cameras on several of the farm roads, but these criminals are becoming smarter and bolder. There needs to be accountability; they need to be brought to justice – their identities and crimes should be recorded so that they don’t get away so quickly just to continue the plunder and carnage,” said Kahl.