Rhino poachers to be charged half a million

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  • Offenders face stiffer penalties
  • Judiciary engaged on the matter-Wildlife Director

TEFO PHEAGE

The government will increase penalties for poaching due to the increased number of Batswana engaged in a commercialised form of the illegal activity. Globally, commercialised poaching is said to be the fourth largest illicit trade after drugs, arms and human trafficking and is worth almost $10 billion (about P100 billion) per year.
The Director of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Major General Otisitswe Tirayamodimo said last week that the review of the penalties for offenders was prompted by the realisation that the charges were not enough of a deterrent for poachers and were becoming increasingly ineffective.
“The penalties have been pathetic and did not achieve their intended purpose. It is anticipated that they will be increased in the next parliamenty session. We have several cases where Batswana are engaging in commercialised poaching, contrary to what we have been having and particularly in the central and eastern parts of the country. The other factor is that these syndicates are in some cases collaborating with foreign nationals, most of them being Namibian and Zambian nationals,” he said, further adding that the country is currently investigating the killing of several rhinos and elephants in the north of the country.
Rhino horn smuggling is seen by criminals as a low-risk, high-profit crime with weakly enforced laws and minimal penalties. Tiroyamodimo said poaching sentences depend on the magistrate overseeing the case and fines are not a deterrent. “You hardly hear of arrests in Botswana at the highest level of poaching like the exporters and importers,” he said.
The rhino horn trade has increased significantly, with poachers driven by poverty and unemployment and paid by Vietnamese and Chinese crime syndicates according to experts. Under the newly proposed fines, the poaching of a Rhino will now be charged half a million while that of an elephant will be charged at P250 thousand. Tiroyamodimo said others will also be increased accordingly. Currently, the fine for poaching a rhino is P100 000, while an elephant is P10 000.
Tiroyamodimo confirmed that they have had meetings and workshops with the judiciary on these matters to map the way forward. Commenting on the shoot to kill policy he said those who are killed are repatriated after thorough investigations and collaboration with law enforcement agencies in their respective countries.
He said increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies was bearing fruit including the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) which they previously had problems with. “We work well with the DISS, BDF and Police and hold collaborative meetings together every now and then. Reports that we are not in good terms are exaggerated. The truth of the matter is that we are human and will occasionally differ on some issues or operational issues,” he said when asked to address concerns of disunity and differences between the agencies.