Poachers are increasingly poisoning elephant water resources and pumpkins, their favourite food.
Criminals with large-calibre hunting rifles and illegal AK-47 assault rifles outgun rangers and the devastating effect is that more than four elephants a day have been killed since 2011 in a Mozambique nature reserve, cutting the population from 12,000 to as few as 1,500, according to conservation group, Fauna and Flora International (FFI).
According to the FFI it is feared that the current surviving elephants in the Niassa National Reserve (NNR) may be wiped out altogether if heavily-armed poaching gangs are not shut down. NNR’s chief executive, Mark Rose, said: “ The value of Niassa as one of the continent’s last great wildernesses should endure beyond a short-term scramble for ivory
and other illicit goods, such as minerals. Its long-term economic, social and cultural
significance cannot be overstated. The Mozambican government must take immediate action to curb this poaching crisis before it is too late.”
Niassa had been home to 70% of the country’s elephants in the Reserve covering more than 16,000 sqm. Matt Rice, a conservationist who runs the Chuilexi tourism concession inside Niassi, said he believed the area’s poaching already started in 2009 and have only escalated since then.
“We can only get access to short range pump-action shotguns and it is a struggle to get licenses for shotguns, so many of our scouts are unarmed.” Chuilexi employs 60 scouts in
its conservation resort as required by its contract and was a key reason he signed it Rice said. He added that he believed Mozambique had been identified as a “soft er target”, a country where law enforcement is less robust than elsewhere on the continent.
“The e consensus is that it’s largely being driven by Chinese syndicates. It goes
hand-in-hand over the last decade with a substantial increase in Chinese investment
and Chinese nationals living and working in these African countries. It’s fantastic that China is making noises that they are against the ivory trade, however, there’s still a burgeoning illegal trade,” according to Rice.
The syndicates are also believed to be involved in trading scales of highly endangered pangolins, he said. At the end of January this year, Hong Kong politicians voted to outlaw the sale of ivory in the region by 2021. Hong Kong is thought to be the world’s biggest retail
ivory market. Mainland China, the biggest source of global ivory demand, banned sales at the start of the year aft er shutting all carving factories and shops last March.
The World Wildlife Fund called for governments in other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Japan to institute similar bans, saying there was evidence those markets were increasingly catering to Chinese visitors.
Wildlife campaigners believe 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers every
year. In neighbouring Zimbabwe earlier this month, four elephants died of cyanide
poisoning after poachers contaminated their water sources. Poachers were increasingly turning to poison and are injecting cyanide into oranges and pumpkins, favourite foods of