One suspected Zambian ivory poacher was arrested and four others escaped when they were ambushed by police in Namibia while trying to cross into wildlife-rich northern Botswana.
The poachers were accosted by a Namibian border patrol unit on the Namibian side of the Linyanti River as they tried to cross into the Okavango Delta on Thursday night.
The Okavango Delta is home to Botswana’s elephants and high security rhino sanctuaries that have been under siege from ivory and horns for the past two years. The Linyanti River forms a natural boundary between Namibia and Botswana for the distance that it runs while the rest of the boundary is largely unmarked.
“There were five Zambian men in all,” said a law enforcement source at Katima Mulilo. “There was a shootout with border guards at Batubaja on the Namibian side of the Linyanti as the group tried to enter Botswana. One was arrested and four escaped, leaving behind two hunting rifles and an assortment of personal effects, including food supplies and poaching tools. The suspect is being held in Katima Mulilo pending his appearance in court.”
Five inflatable mattresses used as improvised dinghies to cross the Zambezi and Linyanti Rivers, two hunting rifles and ammunition, handsaws used to hack off rhino and elephant tasks, six home-made steel knives, two axes, three solar panels, an inverter and five hunting torches are among goods left behind by the would-be poachers.
The police also seized food supplies that include three 12.5kg bags of “Kamunu” roller meal, a popular Zambian staple brand. The suspects also had dried elephant meat, dried fish, five litres of cooking oil, rice and samp packages.
The large quantity of food and personal supplies indicates that the suspects had planned a poaching expedition of long duration in the Okavango. The interception of the poachers and arrest of one of their number comes against the backdrop of a fresh upsurge in rhino and elephant poaching in the Okavango Delta.
At least six rhinos and four elephants have been killed by poachers in the Okavango Delta since the beginning of this year.