News / Africa

Elephant Poachers Plague Mozambique

Elephants wade in the floodwaters of the central districts of Chipanga, Mozambique, February 2001.Elephants wade in the floodwaters of the central districts of Chipanga, Mozambique, February 2001.
x
Elephants wade in the floodwaters of the central districts of Chipanga, Mozambique, February 2001.
Elephants wade in the floodwaters of the central districts of Chipanga, Mozambique, February 2001.
Hunting for ivory on the African continent has tripled, and elephants now are facing their gravest crisis in decades, according to the U.N. Environmental Protection Agency and other conservation groups. One country, Mozambique, is losing more than a thousand elephants to poachers every year - making it one of the nations most affected by Asia's increasing demand for ivory.
 
In the race to feed the hunger for ivory trinkets and carvings in the East, elephant poachers have found easy hunting grounds in Mozambique.

At last count five years ago, 15,000 elephants roamed the vast Niassa reserve in the northernmost part of the country. But those numbers are dwindling fast.

For hundreds of kilometers, the Rovuma River forms a natural frontier between the park and Tanzania. All the poachers have to do is cross over in canoes to get to the elephants, which they attack with high-caliber weapons.

Deadly poachers

The Wildlife Conservation Society, an international non-profit, recently partnered with the Mozambican government to manage the reserve. The organization's technical advisor, Carlos Lopes-Pareira, said poachers are able to gun down as many as five elephants at a time.

“They go after the matriarch. They create a temporary state of confusion.  While the other elephants are looking for guidance from the matriarch, they are shot while they are moving around in different directions,” said Lopes-Pareira.

Elephant poaching in the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique. (Wildlife Conservation Society photo)Elephant poaching in the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique. (Wildlife Conservation Society photo)
x
Elephant poaching in the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique. (Wildlife Conservation Society photo)
Elephant poaching in the Niassa Reserve, Mozambique. (Wildlife Conservation Society photo)
Officials say that since 2009, the number of elephants killed by poachers in Niassa has tripled. Poachers kill an average of three elephants a day. That is more than one thousand a year.

“The destruction is such that in probably eight years we will have very few elephants or what we could call a non-viable population of elephants,” said Lopes-Pareira.

Rangers are outgunned

Rangers try to stop the poachers, though it is a lopsided battle. There are only 40 rangers to patrol the park, which is the size of Norway, and the rangers are armed with rifles that date back to World War II.

Even if they manage to catch a poacher, the chances of sending him to jail are minimal. Mozambique’s penal code dates back to Portuguese colonial times, and does not recognize poaching as a crime.

“The law is very lenient with poachers in Mozambique. In fact it is like a traffic transgression, not a crime,” said Lopes-Pareira.

The director of Mozambique’s National Conservation areas, Francisco Pariela, said there have been many poachers caught in Niassa over the past few years, but catching them is not enough. He said there have been many cases of people being apprehended, but because the law is lacking, no real action was taken against them - other than fining them.

Rampant problem

Pariela blames organized crime syndicates that operate out of countries to the north, but acknowledges locals are also involved.

"These syndicates follow a certain route," he said, "that goes from Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, until they reach Mozambique. When they arrive, they use the local community because local people have a financial weakness, they get used." He admitted that even some state employees are involved in poaching and trafficking in ivory.
 
Customs officers arrange confiscated elephant tusks at the customs department in Bangkok, Thailand, January 6, 2011.Customs officers arrange confiscated elephant tusks at the customs department in Bangkok, Thailand, January 6, 2011.
x
Customs officers arrange confiscated elephant tusks at the customs department in Bangkok, Thailand, January 6, 2011.
Customs officers arrange confiscated elephant tusks at the customs department in Bangkok, Thailand, January 6, 2011.
According to the U.N. poaching report, because of corruption, poverty and weak governance, criminal syndicates find it easy to move the ivory across borders to sell in China, Vietnam and Thailand.
 
Lopes-Pareira said the poachers will be tough to stop without more resources.

“We will need aerial support. We will need the support of authorities and support of communities, and this is not an easy task to achieve all at the same time," he said. "We are considering the involvement of the armed forces. They would have a supportive role but not the main role in this process.”

The Niassa reserve is hoping to train 100 rangers by the end of the year. Meanwhile, tougher anti-poaching legislation soon will go to parliament.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Paul Phelan from: south Africa
April 25, 2013 7:43 AM
Elephant poaching is a plague not limited to Mocambique. It is africa wide supported by the Chinese and Vietnamese syndicates .
Corrupt politicians and officials fuel it as they are bribed by the networks.
The Chinese involvement in Africa is a locust palgue which will consume what ever they can with no respect for the people or enviroinment and sadly elephant and rhino fall to this plague.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More