It is always good news to hear about declining levels of poaching of any kind. For decades the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique was one of the top spots for illegal elephant ivory poaching. We are elated to report the good news that this once “ivory factory” has not seen a single elephant killed since 2018.
The decline in ivory poaching from the Niassa Reserve is no small feat. Sadly, the demand for elephant ivory continues and with massive Chinese Infrastructure projects on the go in Africa created an almost impossible challenge for the wildlife reserve. Yet, in spite of these conditions, a successful turnaround was achieved.
Between 2011 and 2016 poaching dropped from 12,000 elephants culled per annum to well below 4000. The impressive downward trend continued to the point where since May 2018 not a single elephant has been murdered. The reasons for the superb decline are very much the outcome of a wide and tightly controlled anti-poaching program. The efforts of the Mozambican government and the many stakeholders in the wildlife and tourism sectors, including a specialist police intervention team, increased use of light aircraft and tougher sentencing of poachers has paid off.
The success is the result of a combined effort with no single element claiming sole victory. It is clear that just looking at other parks such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa that aerial operations alone are not enough. Tougher sentencing sends out a very real message and yet with rampant poverty surrounding the many national parks and reserves, the risk of getting caught is still not a deterrent. The removal of other illegal activity such as mining from areas where wildlife such have free range is also key. There is a lot to be considered socially, economically and both locally and internationally.
The news outs of Niassa Reserve is remarkable but it is somewhat isolated and is not the same with all reserves and regions. Despite a slight decline, poaching remains a considerable threat to the elephant population, especially in Central and West African countries. East Africa, it seems, is the jewel in the crown of anti-poaching success where culls from poaching have been far less than in previous years with 2016 showing a 50% decrease over 2015. Niassa is clearly part of the new trend and the fight back against the poachers is aided perhaps by a more stable political landscape in the region compared to its West and Central African counterparts.
The success at Niassa cannot be ignored and it is hopefully the beginning of the end of mass scale poaching in Africa.
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