Africa-Press – Namibia. • TIMO SHIHEPO and EINO VATILENI
INVESTIGATIVE journalist John Grobler says he was detained at Gobabis Police Station on Saturday and had his drone confiscated by the authorities while investigating a farm which allegedly exports pregnant elephants.
According to a police case report, Grobler and a colleague are alleged to have used a drone to fly over a private farm to record visuals without the owner’s consent.
It is further alleged that Grobler and his colleague used the drone to disturb specially protected game without a permit or written authority issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.
The police, however, say no arrests were made, and no one was detained, but statements were taken from two men.
“The suspects were found in possession of a DJI Phantom drone equipped with an SG card that contains visuals of elephants on the complainant’s farm. The drone has been confiscated and booked in at the Gobabis Police Station. Investigations in the matter continue,” the report says.
The farm, Go Hunt Namibia Safaris, located on the outskirts of Gobabis in the Omaheke region, is owned by Gerrie Odendaal who is accused of allowing illegal activities on his property.
Both Odendaal and the environment ministry deny any wrongdoing.
Grobler yesterday said he and his colleague were arrested, held at the police station for about three hours, charged with trespassing, and released after being told a police docket would be sent to the prosecutor general’s office for a decision to be taken on possible charges.
He said there is zero transparency in the environment ministry regarding the selling of the country’s elephants to two Middle Eastern zoos.
“[I am] charged with trespassing under [the Trespass] Ordinance 3 of 1962, a regulation so outdated it is a year older than me,” he remarked
Odendaal yesterday said Grobler did not enter the farm, but “was flying the drone over the farm”.
Odendaal said he called the police.
When asked if his farm was exporting pregnant elephants, he said: “I have no comment on that. I cannot confirm nor deny those allegations.”
Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda yesterday said they were aware that Grobler was detained.
“We understand he was taking footage on private property. We further understand the owner has also opened a case. There was no permission from our side, nor from the owner of the farm,” he said.
Muyunda said the elephants Grobler saw were in the process of being exported.
“The animals are on a private farm. If they are being exported elsewhere he needs to prove that. Regardless of that, it does not give anyone the right to trespass and break the law,” he said.
“I cannot confirm that there are illegal activities of exporting pregnant wild animals on that farm. That is an allegation we are refuting,” he said.
Muyunda said whoever is behind Grobler’s detention did well to blow the whistle on illegal activity.
“I cannot confirm that it’s officials from the environment and tourism ministry. In fact, we deny those allegations unless he has proof.”
Omaheke police chief Andreas Haingura said he was not aware of the incident.