Slaughter of Mozambique elephants

Elephant population halved in five years

There are only about 10,300 elephants left in Mozambique compared with 22,000 just five years ago according to a Mozambique government-backed survey made in conjunction with the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and USAid.

According to Alastair Nelson, the director in Mozambique of the US-based WCS, the steep decline is due to poaching, especially in the northern Niassa National Reserve where the savannah elephant population has gone from 15,400 to 6,100 in five years.

The Niassa reserve, which is managed jointly by the Mozambique ministry of tourism and the WCS, is remote and three-times the size of the Serengeti. It is connected to the Tanzanian Selous national park to its north via the Niassa-Selous wildlife corridor but it does not have the worldwide recognition of its Tanzanian neighbours.

The report is part of the Great Elephant Census of 18 countries to count savannah elephant populations in sub-Sahara Africa. The last census in Mozambique was taken in 2008.

According to the Mozambique report much of the killing in the Niassa National Reserve is attributed to Tanzanians, who are finding poaching increasingly difficult on their home territory.

Mozambique has been slower than neighbouring countries to take measures against the illegal ivory trade and only passed a law to criminalise the killing of protected species in 2014.

In mid May police seized 1.3 tonnes of elephant ivory and rhino horn in Matola and arrested a Chinese national in one of Mozambique's biggest hauls of illegal wildlife products.

The ivory products and rhino horn in particular are much sought-after in Asia.

The WCS, which says that 96 elephants are killed every day in Africa, is now running a campaign to force Craig's List to stop the sale of ivory products on its site.