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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs