A government survey showed that over the past five years, the number of elephants in Mozambique has dropped from 20,000 to 10,300 due to poaching.
That’s a 48% decline in just five years. And 95% of those elephant deaths occurred in remote northern Mozambique, which has the Niassa National Reserve, reducing the region’s population from 15,400 to 6,100.
The drastic decline is due to the illegal wildlife trade and a lack of governance. Many of the poachers came to Mozambique from Tanzania, where the market was bleak from its decimated elephant population.
Director of WCS in Mozambique, whose organization manages the Niassa Reserve, Alastair Nelson says:
“The major issue is one of governance. The north has always been a remote and poorly governed area, with an underlying level of corruption. Some district police and border guards are being paid off, some even rent out their own firearms.”
Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, has been slow to start fighting the poaching problem. Before June 2014, poachers were simply fined for illegal possession of a weapon. But after international pressure, the country adopted a new law criminalizing the killing of protected animals.
In May, Mozambique police completed the country’s biggest-ever search and acquisition of illegal wildlife products. They seized 1.3 tons of elephant ivory and rhino horn – the outcome of killing about 200 animals.
Sadly, an estimated 30,000 elephants in Africa are killed illegally for the ivory trade each year. There are around 470,000 wild elephants left in Africa, according to a survey by Elephants Without Borders. A century ago, there were several million.