Arrest represents crackdown on poaching that claims 1,500-1,800 elephants per year
On Monday, September 22, two ivory poachers were arrested in Mozambique during a late-night raid near Niassa National Reserve. The arrest followed on the heels of nearly two-dozen reported kills in the reserve in just the first two weeks of the month.
Poaching of elephants (Loxodonta africana) is a mounting problem across Africa, where an estimated 25,000 are killed every year by hunters who use high-caliber rifles, hide spikes in the underbrush, and poison watering holes. In Mozambique alone, between 1,500 and 1,800 elephants are slaughtered for the black market ivory trade annually, according to WCS, which describes the trend as a “national disaster” that could wipe out the country’s elephants in less than ten years.
Guns seized in the arrest of two ivory poachers. Taking guns out of circulation is a crucial part of saving elephant populations in Mozambique. Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation Society
“The killing of elephants in the north of Mozambique…is reaching proportions never seen before,” Carlos Pareira, advisor to WCS, told The Guardian. “The killing of elephants is being industrialized.”
Ivory from elephants poached in Mozambique has been tracked by WWF to markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Mozambique has been criticized by CITES as being lax on anti-poaching enforcement, with poaching not even considered a crime until recently and offenders unable to be charged with anything more than illegal weapons possession.
A new law passed in June bolsters punishment for poaching. Under it, an offender faces high fines and up to 12 years in jail–but it does not go into effect until the end of 2014. Another passed recently also ups fines and jail time, and will be applied to this week’s arrests.