Elephant population almost halved

Mozambique’s elephant population has fallen by almost half in the last five years, due to massive poaching.

An elephant census was undertaken in 2014, as part of Mozambique’s commitments as a signatory to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), and a report on the census was delivered on Tuesday to the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet).

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, said that, in the five years since the previous census, the number of elephants in the country has fallen by 48 per cent.

Correia pledged that the government will do all in its power to reverse the situation over the next two years, while the conservation areas also play their key role of promoting the development of local communities.

He added that, under a joint initiative between his ministry and the Mozambican police (PRM), a special force has been set up to police the conservation areas.

The Minister gave few details, but promised that the census report will soon be made public. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which collaborated in the census, was less reticent. It said the number of elephants in Mozambique has declined from just over 20,000 in 2009 to around 10,300 in 2014.

“Organised criminal gangs are decimating Mozambique’s biodiversity and undermining governance in remote border areas”, says a WCS report. “This is destroying one of the key development options for local communities and regional government in these remote, wild areas where wildlife thrive”.

Most of the losses occurred in the northern provinces of Niassa and Cabo Delgado, where the elephant population fell from around 15,400 to 6,100. The Niassa National Reserve, the largest conservation area in the country.

Ninety-five percent of the total loss occurred in northern Mozambique where the elephant population declined from an estimated 15,400 to an estimated 6,100. Niassa National Reserve was hardest hit. Here the number of elephants fell from around 12,000 to an estimated 4,440. In the census, 43 per cent of all elephants seen in the Niassa Reserve were carcasses.

In the Quirimbas National Park, in Cabo Delgado, the elephant population is small, at just over 600 animals, but the WCS reports “significant poaching, with 45% of all elephants seen on the survey dead”.

The decline in the western province of Tete, and in the Limpopo National Park in the south is less severe. Nonetheless, over the past five years 20 per cent of the animals have gone, leaving 1,600 elephants in Tete and 1,100 in the Limpopo Park and other southern areas.

The one bright spot is that in Sofala province elephant populations are slowly increasing – to 535 in the Gorongosa National Park and 600 in the Marromeu Special Reserve.

Most of the poachers decimating elephant populations in the north come from Tanzania. The government therefore hopes to work with the Tanzanian authorities to staunch the poaching.

On Monday Correia and the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, signed an agreement in Maputo on protecting the vast cross-border conservation area that covers the Niassa Reserve and Tanzania’s Selous Reserve, and area of around 15,000 square kilometers.

Post published in: Africa News

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