Elephant poaching is happening on an unprecedented and “industrialised” scale in Mozambique, environmentalists have warned, after 22 of the animals were killed for their tusks in the first two weeks of September.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said organised crime syndicates are slaughtering between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants a year in the southern African country, feeding demand for ivory in the far east. There are fears that Mozambique’s elephant herds could be extinct within a decade.
The crisis, described by the WCS as a “national disaster”, was discussed during a two-day meeting of Mozambican officials, law enforcement agents and diplomats in the capital, Maputo.
Carlos Pareira, an adviser to the New York-based WCS, told the seminar of the worsening situation in Niassa, the country’s biggest game reserve, where “in the first two weeks of September alone we counted 22 elephants that had been killed.”
The Niassa reserve, co-managed by the WCS with the 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 industrialised.”
Poachers use automatic weapons and high-calibre hunting rifles to kill the animals, the meeting heard. In the northern Tete province, they poison drinking water sources, killing not only elephants, while spikes concealed in the bush have also been used to wound animals in the coastal Querimbas reserve, causing them slow and agonising deaths from gangrene.