Thursday 30 October 2014

Four or five elelphants a day are being killed in Mozambique

Most of Mozambique's elephants are found in the far north, in the Niassa National Reserve, and in the Quirimbas national park. Four per cent live in the south (in Maputo and Gaza provinces, mostly along the border with South Africa), and 30 per cent live in the centre of the country, mostly in Tete.

It is the Niassa and Quirimbas elephant herds that are being annihilated by organised criminal gangs, in what is described as a national disaster.

An aerial survey of the Quirimbas Park in 2013 found 854 live elephants, and 811 carcasses. A similar survey in the Niassa Reserve in 2011 found 12,029 live elephants and 2,627 carcasses. Estimates are that one elephant a day is being killed in the Quirimbas park and three or four a day in the Niassa reserve.

Mozambique is now seen internationally as one of the countries which is not taking action against elephant poaching. The lax attitude of the authorities can be seen from the fact that ivory is publicly on sale in Maputo. Buyers (Asian) can pick up raw and worked ivory at markets in the capital, under the noses of the police. Almost half of the poachers in Niassa are Tanzanian - but they depend on corrupt officials on both sides of the border to get the ivory out and to purchase more ammunition.

Recently poison has been used on at least five small lakes in Tete. This method kills not only elephants, but anything else that drinks at the lakes.

Criticism is levelled at the slow and inadequate response of the police and courts. Even when poachers are caught and fined, the fines are often not paid. This harms the morale of the game wardens, who are entitled to 50 per cent of the fines. The police failed to recognise the authority of game wardens, even though the law entitles the wardens to carry guns, and obliges the police to collaborate in protecting wildlife resources.

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