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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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