NAIROBI, 22 October 2009 (IRIN) – Authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, are compiling data on foreign helicopters said to be poaching and stealing wildlife from the area while at the same time scaring off the farm animals.
“We have been getting reports in the past few months of unidentified helicopters swooping in from the sea and attacking and taking wildlife,” Abdiqani Yusuf Ade, Puntland’s Environment Minister, told IRIN.
He said the authorities did not have a clear picture of “who was involved or from what countries”.
Ade said Puntland was calling on countries whose forces were stationed off the Somali coast as part of the anti-piracy efforts to stop the poaching if they were involved.
He said the authorities had asked residents in the coastal villages to take photographs of the helicopters. “We are trying to get visual evidence to show the world. If the information we are getting is correct, what is happening is illegal,” he said. “These forces are here to fight piracy; they should not be poaching our natural resources.”
Abdiaziz Aw Yusuf, the district commissioner of Jariban, near the area where the helicopters are alleged to be poaching, told IRIN it had been going on for some time. “They usually operate in an area between the coastal villages of Eil Danan and Dhinowda Digdigle.”
He said the helicopters scattered the wildlife and once they had landed, two or three men captured the animals. He said the most common game in the area was gazelle and ostrich.
Yusuf said the noise of the helicopters was affecting the local population and their livestock. Many were lost after being frightened by the planes and stampeding. He said some had been eaten by predators.
“We have forwarded our complaints and what information we have collected to the Puntland government,” Yusuf said.
Ahmed Aden, an elder in Garad town, 5km south of the area, told IRIN the helicopters came from ships that could be seen from the land.
Aden said because the area was flat and grassy, it was easy for the helicopters to land. He said the dust raised disoriented the animals, allowing the men on board to capture them.
“It has become normal to see them on a daily basis,” Aden said. “They [foreign forces] claim to be guarding against pirates but who is guarding us and our resources against them?”