Visit to Etosha National Park (EPN)Sep 2, 2015
On 28 August 2015, the UNDP team visited several Government-UNDP/GEF Project sites in Etosha. ENP is Namibia’s oldest National Park. The Park covers an area of 22,270 km2 and is one of Southern Africa’s popular wildlife sanctuaries.
ENP is one of the most visited parks in Namibia. Given the growth in tourism, the park is faced with various capacity and developmental challenges. The Protected Area Systems Strengthening (PASS) Project is a Project of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) that is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Its main objective is to ensure that the Protected Area System of Namibia is strengthened and financed by improving revenue generation and collection, implementation of modern law enforcement models and adequate fire management strategies.
The team met with some of the MET Park officials who highlighted the role of the MET as well as the assistance that the PASS Project provides to park management. MET has approximately 170 staff members who are responsible for management of wildlife. The staff members were appreciative of the efforts made by the PASS Project.
With the recent increase in poaching, the MET through the Ministry of Safety and Security has since December 2014 deployed 48 members of the Namibian Police force (NAMPOL) to assist with anti-poaching initiatives in the park. The NAMPOL officials stated that the project was effective and were appreciative of clean water and camping equipment provided to the patrol camps. They said that the presence of the police in the park acts as a deterrent to poachers and in some cases has assisted with the apprehension of poachers. Since police have been stationed in the park, 24 arrests have been made.
The Automated Park Entry and Revenue Collection System
With assistance from the PASS project, ENP now has an improved modern park entry and revenue collection system at all its four entry gates. The system has been upgraded from a manual to a more efficient computerized system. When issuing a permit, the visitors’ identification document (Passport or ID) is scanned, and data is automatically transmitted between the entry gates and the ‘pay points’ via a network. Entry permits are issued within a minute and payment is done at one of the 3 pay points in the park.
All data entered and processed at all 4 gates is transmitted to the regional server at the Park headquarters in Okaukeujo.
The staff working with the system where very happy about the new computerized system as information of visitors is no longer copied manually, improving the efficiency of issuing permits. Secondly, the system makes it easier to obtain statistics on tourist data and revenue collected. Annual, monthly or weekly reports on finances and tourist data is now easily available at the click of a button.
The risk of miscalculations and lost documentation is greatly minimized and since all information is captured in the computerized database, the audit process is much easier, information is clear and it is easy to detect mismatches.
Visit to Okaukuejo (The ENP Head quarters)
Chief Control Warden of ENP Mr Rehabeam Erckie (Madala) briefed the team on the management of the ENP and was grateful for the support that the PASS project has provided to the park since its inception. Some key points he made include:
Support to Law enforcement activities:
The PASS Project assisted with support for fuel cost for air patrols. Additional rhino carcases were discovered through aerial surveillance. The massive poaching discoveries in Etosha and Kunene were only made as a result of intensive and low flying aerial patrols with both the Namibian Police (NAMPOL) and the Namibian Defense Force (NDF) helicopters. He says although the exercise is expensive, it yields good results and asked that budgeting for such activities continue in the future.
• Crime Scene Investigations – to ensure evidence collection for prosecution
• Anti-poaching Patrols – to improve patrol strategies
• Metal detectors – to detect ammunition cartridges at crime scenes and bullet trajectory in or around the carcasses.
• Communication: 27 x Satellite Phones for essential communication during law enforcement operations as there is no network coverage in most operational areas. Satellite phones also comes in handy and very useful during human-wildlife conflict, fire management and other park management activities.
Fire management: The PASS Project is assisting with the placement of new fire signs in the park.
Conservancies: Madala stressed the importance of conservancies surrounding the park and the role of community members in wildlife protection. He stated that more environmental education campaigns need to be made to sensitize the public on wildlife crimes and how such crimes affect not only the community, but the country at large.
He also highlighted the importance of capacity building and training of lawyers and prosecutors on how to handle wildlife related crimes.