The Mozambican government, through the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) in coordination with strategic wildlife protection partners, was able to reduce elephant loss to zero in the first half of this year to poaching in the Niassa Reserve, northern Mozambique.
The Director General of ANAC, Mateus Mutemba told APA in an interview on Friday that measures such as enhancement of the rapid response capacity for the protection of animals from the reserve, deployment of a specific rapid intervention unit on the ground, monitoring of elephants by satellite, placement of tracing collars and air patrolling are indicated as impact actions on the ground.
"It is a remarkable achievement because the last elephant to be poached in Niassa died in May last year", Muthemba said during an exclusive interview with APA on Friday.
He added: "In recent years, the reserve has seen a reduction in poaching cases, and in 2019 there were no cases of elephant slaughter due to poaching. Nevertheless, there are still threats to wildlife conservation in this area".
Elephant poaching has been mainly in the Niassa National Reserve in the remote north near the border with Tanzania, an area where conservationists have been raising alarm bells for years.
Besides ivory, Mozambique is regularly cited as a major transit route for rhino horn poached from South Africa, home to most of the world’s remaining population of the animals.
According to Muthemba, this trend was also favored by the improvement of the legal framework, especially the amendment of the Law on the Protection, Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity, which in the field of restriction of freedom (criminal frameworks for prevaricators) of the perpetrators of the crime, punishing not only the material agents, but also the conspirators, accomplices and coverers of the legal type of crime (poaching).
"In addition to actions to raise awareness of communities that have had great advantages in the fight against poaching, the reform of the legal framework has brought great advantages in the protection of wildlife," he said.
Niassa, which is one of the largest wildlife parks in Africa and covers an area larger than Switzerland, boasted an elephant population of 12,000 as recently as 2011.
Due to aggressive poaching, however, the number of animals plummeted to just above 3,600 in 2017.
To improve the performance of management programs in conservation areas, Muthemba said that the government has been promoting co-management initiatives with a number of partners concerned with conservation, specifically those related to protection and monitoring in the Niassa National Reserve.
Additionally, the park security includes a small plane for patrolling, a dedicated vehicle for the rapid response unit and four motorbikes.
A team of 50 people, including patrolling scouts and gate guards, works at Niassa alongside the police officers.
"In 2014, ANAC signed an agreement with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to support the management of the Niassa reserve with the central aim of ensuring the protection of species," he said.
Since 2014, the Niassa National Reserve has benefited from the support of the Government of Japan in implementing programs to protect and combat the illegal killing of elephants, and it was from this perspective that the Japanese Ambassador, Toshio Ikeba, also present at the event, said that will continue to honor its commitment to the Mozambican Government by providing support in combating poaching and trade in ivory.
"Japan will donate resources to improve the monitoring and prevention capacity of elephant poaching in Mozambique. It will continue to strengthen cooperation with the international community to stem the illegal trade in wildlife" he noted.
He recalled that his country's government, based on its commitments, disbursed US $ 109,000 in 2018 to monitor trends in elephant poaching in the reserve and to the project of the Center for Wildlife Surveillance and Protection of Wildlife. Niassa Reserve.
The Niassa National Reserve has suffered a significant loss of elephant herds as a result of criminal poaching activities over the last few years, but with the ongoing actions of the government and international partners and not only on the fronts of surveillance, community awareness, among others, the losses were gradually reduced to the situation that is recorded today.
At present, the reserve has a population of 3,238 elephants out of a total of 4,522, almost half of the elephants in the country.
The biggest challenge is to ensure the continuity of the conservation programs of one of the largest natural ecosystems of large wild animals, especially emblematic species such as elephants, lions and leopards.