The elephant poaching crisis in Africa, fueled in part by demand for ivory in the far east, is getting worse. Environmentalists warn that elephants are being killed on an industrialized scale in Mozambique – 22 of the creatures were killed for their tusks in the first two weeks of September alone. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said organized crime syndicates are slaughtering between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants a year in the east African country.
In a two-day meeting with Mozambican officials, law enforcement agents and diplomats convened in the capital, Maputo, to discuss the crisis. Carlos Pareira, an adviser to the New York-based WCS, informed the congregation about the worsening situation in Niassa, the country’s biggest game reserve. The Niassa reserve, co-managed by the WCS and Mozambican authorities, is double the size of South Africa’s popular Kruger National Park. Pareira added: “The killing of elephants in the north of Mozambique … is reaching proportions never seen before. The killing of elephants is being industrialized.”
There are fears that Mozambique’s elephant herds could be extinct within a decade. Poachers have been using automatic weapons and high-calibre hunting rifles to kill the animals. In the northern Tete province, they have been poisoning drinking water sources, killing other animals in addition to elephants, while placing spikes concealed in the bush to wound animals in the coastal Querimbas reserve, causing them slow and agonizing deaths from gangrene. Between 480 and 900 elephants died in the Querimbas between 2011 and 2013, according to a recent aerial study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund. Ivory from Mozambique has been traced to markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but trinkets and carvings are also sold at craft markets in Maputo.
Mozambique has previously been criticized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as one of the world’s worst failures in combating poaching and has been threatened with sanctions as a result. Poaching was not considered a crime until recently, and anyone arrested often got off with a fine for illegal weapons possession. A new law passed in June has now toughened penalties for poaching, including hefty fines and jail terms of up to 12 years for killing protected species. Although the new conservation law was approved in June, it will only go into effect at the end of the year, officials said.
Via The Guardian
Photos by Michał Huniewicz (Elephants) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Forest elephant group 1Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons