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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora