Mozambique: No elephant poached in Niassa wildlife park in a year

APA-Maputo (Mozambique)

After years of rapidly shrinking numbers, wildlife experts at Mozambique's Niassa Reserve marked a year without a single elephant dying at the hands of poachers driven by red-hot demand for ivory from fast-growing Asian economies such as China and Vietnam, APA can report on Friday,

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.


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