In Mozambique, one of Africa’s largest elephant reserves has had a full year without poaching. And while before that thousands of elephants were killed every year. The peak year is due to a new approach that includes an elite unit, strict penalties, and air surveillance.
Niassa, one of the largest nature parks in Africa with an area larger than Switzerland, moaned under an unsustainable poaching plant until 2015. Every year thousands of elephants were killed for their ivory. The population decreased from an estimated 12,000 animals in 2011 to just 3,760 in 2016.
Park management and the government were forced to implement strict measures. At the beginning of 2018, they worked out a coordinated plan to tackle poaching, including a quick police intervention unit and more aerial surveillance. A plane was patrolled all year round, while a helicopter was also deployed during the wet season.
The park management also acted more strictly against illegal settlements and the government introduced stricter laws against syrups. The fact that poachers were sentenced to severe penalties during different processes at the same time increased the deterrent effect.
The range of measures produced results: they immediately reduced poaching by 87 percent between 2017 and 2018. On May 17, 2018, the last elephant killed by poachers died. The park has now been free from poaching for more than twelve months.
That offers enormous hope for the preservation of the elephant in Mozambique. “A truly remarkable achievement,” said James Bampton of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“A hugely important development”, says George Wittemyer from organization Save the Elephants. Given the enormous dimensions of the Niassa park – 42,300 square kilometers – it is one of the last areas in Africa that can sustain a large elephant population. According to scientists, up to 20,000 specimens could live.
Besides thousands of elephants, there are also large populations of lions, leopards, wild dogs, antelopes, and zebras.