WINDHOEK, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Namibia's minister of environment and tourism on Tuesday proposed tougher penalties for those convicted of rhino and elephant poaching in the country.
Pohamba Shifeta lamented the losses of the animals despite massive investments by the government and conservation partners towards combating illegal hunting of rhinos and elephants.
The southern African country that is home to 2,700 rhinos, the second largest population of the animal in the world, and 22,000 elephants, has seen a spike in poaching activities in recent years.
Government statistics show that Namibia lost 63 rhinos and 101 elephants last year, mostly inside the Etosha National Park and the Bwabwata National Park.
A total of 222 suspects have been arrested for rhino and elephant poaching, but the minister argued in Parliament that the arrests and convictions failed to be deterrent enough with lenient penalties.
Shifeta then introduced the Nature Conservation Amendment Bill, which seeks to increase the penalties related to wildlife crimes.
The bill, if approved, will see those found guilty of rhino and elephant poaching be liable to a fine not exceeding 25 million Namibia dollars (1.9 million U.S. dollars), up from the current maximum of 200,000 Namibia dollars.
The maximum jail sentence will also be increased from the current 20 years to 25 years. Enditem