Over the last five years, poachers in Mozambique have killed almost half of the elephants in the country for their ivory. The government in Mozambique sponsored a study that shows a dramatic 48 percent decrease in the number of elephants from 20,000 to just over 10,000. The Wildlife Conservation Society said that the decline is directly attributed to rampant poaching.

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The elephant population in Niassa National Reserve suffered the most devastation, where losses account for 95 percent of the murdered elephants. The population of the reserve, located in remote Northern Mozambique, was once 15,000 and is now estimated at just 6,100.

Poachers have already destroyed most of the elephants in Tanzania, and are now invading Mozambique looking for new prey. “The major issue is one of governance. The north has always been a remote and poorly governed area, with an underlying level of corruption,” said Alistair Nelson, director of the WCS in Mozambique.

Related: Poachers kill over 300 elephants by dumping cyanide in Zimbabwe watering holes

Some of the border guards and police in the north are being paid off and some even rent out their own guns to the poachers, who seek ivory as their prize. Elephant tusks, prized in Asia, are carved into jewelry or other statues. An aerial survey showed over half the elephants dead, with their tusks gone. A century ago, there were several million elephants across Africa, and today’s population could be just 470,000, according to Elephants Without Borders.

Maputo, the largest and capital city of Mozambique, has not cared to do more than fine poachers in some cases for illegal possession of a gun. Now, poaching itself is a crime and on May 14, police seized 1.3 tons of rhino horns and elephants tusks, the result of the killing of about 200 animals. The street value is reported at about $6.3 million. Unfortunately, until demand for such things like tusks and horns is eliminated, it looks like it will be almost impossible to stop those willing to kill the last of these animals to make a few dollars.

Via The Guardian

Images via Dennis Jarvis and Ronald Saunders