Once the scene of rampant elephant poaching, this African wildlife reserve solved the problem

Between 2009 and 2014, the Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique was repeatedly hit by poachers, reducing the elephant population in the reserve from from 12,000 to around 3,675, an average loss of nearly 1,400 elephants a year. Something had to be done.

The solution: A tough anti-poaching strategy which managed to reduce the number of elephant deaths by to about 100 a year from 2015 to 2017.

And now a year has passed and no elephants have been killed by poachers, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS):

“WCS and partners have reported an astounding success, registering zero instances of elephant poaching for the past 12 months in Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve, a massive protected area plagued by rampant wildlife crime just a few years ago. Conservationists attribute the elimination of poaching in the park due to a collaborative effort with the Government of Mozambique and concession operators in the park, combined with deployment of a special police rapid intervention unit; an increased aviation program providing surveillance and the deployment of a helicopter and Cessna aircraft; and tough new sentencing of poachers.”

A combination of both high and low-tech methods were used to make sure no elephants were killed:

“This strategy included deploying a year-round Cessna aircraft and chartering a helicopter during the wet seasons of early 2018 and again through December 2018 through May, 2019 to transport scouts and supplies to remote poaching locations, deploy response teams when poaching was detected, as well as aerial surveillance.

“In addition, the partnership cleared—and kept clear—illegal mining and fishing camps in the reserve. At the same time, numerous poaching cases in Niassa and Cabo Delgado were successfully prosecuted under a revised conservation law. Improvements and expansion of the existing Niassa radio system for better coordination among all partners on anti-poaching operations further contributed to the success.”

The good news from Mozambique is in stark contrast to what’s happening in Botswana, which recently lifted a ban on trophy hunting and ivory sales. Just last month, the government of Botswana announced:

“The number and high levels of human-elephant conflict and the consequent impact on livelihoods was increasing. The general consensus from those consulted was that the hunting ban should be lifted.”

Botswana is home to some 130,000 elephants, and the decision to allow what it calls “ethical hunting” could decimate the elephant population on the continent and drive them to the verge of extinction.

Perhaps Botswana needs to take a lesson from the success in Mozambique and find a way to protect these incredible animals instead of letting them be killed by callous, greedy hunters.



Featured Image Via Vimeo Screenshot

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Andrew Bradford

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