Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Official complicity in Mozambican elephant slaughter

Extracts from a report released by the Oxpeckers organisation.

Environmentalists warned in mid-September that killing for ivory by organised syndicates was being carried out on an “industrialised” scale – between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants are being poached a year, mostly in northern Mozambique.

In Niassa National Reserve, the country’s largest game reserve, the World Conservation Society (WCS) counted 22 poached elephants in the first two weeks of September alone.“The killing of elephants in the north of Mozambique is reaching proportions never seen before. The killing of elephants is being industrialised,” said Carlos Pareira, an advisor to the WCS.

Between 2009 and 2013 Niassa’s elephant population was reduced from 20,374 to less than 13,000. According to the reserve’s administrator, CornĂ©lio Miguel, an average of five elephants are now being killed there daily.

In the Quirimbas National Park, the elephant population was reduced from about 2,000 in 2008 to 517 by 2011, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Baldeu Chande, the administrator of Quirimbas, estimates the park now has a maximum of 790 elephants.

The investigation, started in November 2013, reveals a web of official complicity in the slaughter among administrative, judicial and tax authorities in the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa.

The poaching networks on the ground consist of armed hunters: Mozambicans, Tanzanians, Somalis with high-calibre weapons. They smuggle their illegal proceeds through Mozambican ports, airports and borders, destined mainly for China or Vietnam.

Documents show that officials are facilitating these crimes. Some sell weapons and ammunition, military uniforms and boots, and others facilitate the release of detainees and the disappearance of evidence.

The investigation discovered 15 cases involving armed poachers in the Quirimbas National Park, dating to between 2009 and 2013, which were forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Police, the Prosecuting Attorney and the Provincial Court – with no outcome. Even some poachers brazenly walking around with AK47s were released.

One syndicate comprising four alleged poachers was arrested in Quirimbas in 2010 after killing three elephants. Charges were laid against Manuel Kachupa, Jorge Salimo, Luis Assima and Antonio Amisse, but they were released.

In another operation against the same group in 2011, 106 rounds of AK47 ammunition and 104,114 Meticais in cash were seized. This time Luis Assima, head of the group, got wind of the arrests and left the day before with another accused, Manuel Kachupa, to hunt with three automatic weapons.

Kachupa is a ringleader, but appears untouchable. In August 2011 he was captured with more than 90,000 Meticais in cash and a week later he was released after paying a “deposit” of 20,000 Meticais. In another case, after he was caught chasing a group of six elephants, he managed to escape with a rifle, ammunition and three elephant tails. He was re-captured and detained in the maximum security prison, but four days later he was released.

In the province of Cabo Delgado, the administrator of the district, Ancuabe Eusebia Celestino, and the chief secretary of the village of Muaja, Horace Radio, provided weapons used in the killing of so-called “problem” elephants which they said were destroying farms around the Quirimbas National Park.

In Quirimbas the administration has no autonomy to kill or cull elephants, either inside or outside the park. “Problem” animals must be dealt with by the provincial department of agriculture, and they must inform the park that they will send men to drive but not to slaughter the animal.

Of the elephants slaughtered on orders from the administrator during the past four years, neither the park administration nor the provincial directorate of agriculture of Cabo Delgado received any ivory. These facts were confirmed by both institutions.

Cabo Delgado police commander Dora Manuel Manjate, is accused of facilitating the passage of ivory, rubies and other illicit products for Chinese clientele. According to the security sources, Chinese clientele have contributed towards a new home and vehicle for Manjate – “a 4×4, one of those newer types, a make not assigned by the police.”

One of our sources in the harbour said that recently, at the behest of the commander Manjate, a policeman who tried searching a forestry container was locked up in a cell for eight days. “We’re afraid to search a container in the port when it belongs to Mofid.”

After confirmation in the geography department and from a member of the municipal council of Pemba, we tracked down commander Manjate’s home, located about 200m from the beach with a stunning side view of the sea. On entering the house, we found Mozambican workers and a Chinese company, CN-Balcony Buildings, busy with construction. According to them, the construction will cost in the region of one million one hundred thousand Meticais.

Research for this year-long investigation is supported by documentary and photographic evidence. The investigation was funded by The Fund For Investigative Journalism (FIJ).

For the full story go to  http://oxpeckers.org/2014/09/official-complicity-in-mozambican-elephant-slaughter/

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