WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Rhino poaching in Namibia dropped to 41 individuals killed in all of 2019 so far, compared with nearly 72 during the same period last year, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism said Saturday.
Namibia has the second largest population of white rhinos in the world after South Africa and, according to NGO Save the Rhino, it holds one-third of the world's remaining black rhinos.
Poaching in Namibia to feed mostly East Asian markets has yo-yoed since peaking in 2015 at 95 rhinos, falling to 60 in 2016, 36 in 2017 and then going up to 72 again last year - all figures counted from January through mid-December.
"The public continues to assist us in arresting perpetrators of this crime," ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said by telephone. "We have also beefed up our intelligence so that we can anticipate poaching activities before they happen."
Despite being composed of the same substance as hair and fingernails, rhino horn is prized in East Asia as a supposed medicine for multiple ailments, and is also prized by business elites for trinkets and other products because of its rarity.
While cracking down on poachers, Namibia is also lobbying against the rules that govern the global trade in endangered species, after other countries rejected proposals to relax restrictions on legal hunting and exporting its white rhinos.
It wants to allow more trophy hunting of rhinos and export of live animals, arguing that the funds it would raise would help it to protect the species, an argument rejected by countries that are party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in August.
The ministry's data showed 329 people were charged with poaching offences between 2014 and 2018, of whom all were African apart from 17 Chinese.
(Editing by Tim Cocks and Alex Richardson)