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Mozambican poachers target SA rhinos

28 July 2016, 13:30

Maputo - The depletion of elephants and rhinos in Mozambique has prompted poachers there to target rhinos in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a report has revealed.

A Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime Beyond Borders made the revelation in its recently-released report titled "Beyond Borders: Crimes, Conservation and Criminal Networks in Illicit Rhino Trade".

The report says, besides crossing into South Africa, the Mozambicans also take advantage of rhinos that stray into their country.

"Today, the only rhinos that occur in Mozambique are those that cross the border from the Kruger National Park. Rangers refer to them darkly as 'the suicidal ones'. There are estimated to be about twenty of them wandering across every day and, on average, ten are killed by poachers on Mozambican soil every year," the report says.

According to the report, while some conservationists are worried about rhino poaching, Mozambique’s most pressing environmental problems is illegal logging and elephant poaching.

Experts say insatiable demand for timber in China has seen trees harvested on such a scale in Mozambique that some believe the country will be stripped of its forests "in just a few years".

A report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that 93% of logging in Mozambique in 2013 was illegal and that "without major reforms, Mozambique’s forests and forest economy are staring down the barrel of a very bleak future".

Numbers of elephants fall by 48%

The report, written by Global Initiative rhino investigator Julian Rademeyer, reveals that elephants in Mozambique have been slaughtered on a massive scale, with numbers falling by 48% in just five years - from more than 20 000, to just 10 300.

"The Niassa Reserve which, at 42 000 square kilometres, is twice the size of the Kruger National Park, was hardest hit. In 2012, there were an estimated 12 000 elephants there. Today only about 4 500 remain,” reads the report.

Branding Mozambique as a country in crisis, the report cites rampant corruption, a weak judiciary, an ineffectual and criminally compromised police force, and powerful criminal syndicates, as factors fuelling poaching and other transnational crimes.

"Policing is abysmal. There is enough evidence to arrest and prosecute. We know who the key figures are. They are very well known. Despite that, we are not able to arrest any of the poaching gang leaders," the report quoted an unnamed conservationist as saying.

The report singles out one incident on the outskirts of the Mozambican capital of Maputo, in Matola, where police in May last year stormed into a house.

The police made the largest seizure of ivory and rhino horn in the country’s history.

"Packed into shipping crates and piled on the floor were 340 elephant tusks and 65 rhino horns. Together they weighed around 1.3 tons, representing the deaths of at least 170 elephants and more than 30 rhinos at the hands of poachers," the report explained.

Incapable of disrupting the criminal syndicates

The seizure led to the arrests of two Chinese nationals.

Mozambican authorities squandered the opportunity to prosecute the case, as a dozen horns vanished within days of the raid, despite being under guard at the police’s provincial command headquarters.

The two Chinese suspects also disappeared without trace after being granted bail.

Mozambican Environment Minister Celso Correia said the action was intended to "send a signal" that the country "will not tolerate poachers, traffickers and the organised criminals which employ and pay them to kill our wildlife and threaten our communities".

According to a study just released by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, the country is incapable of disrupting the criminal syndicates that have turned it into a major trans-shipment point for rhino horn, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and dagga.

The value of illegal drug trade in Mozambique, it claims, is probably greater than all foreign aid combined.

- News 24


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