Dead whale washed ashore in Chinde
The 867 elephant tusks seized in a container at the port of Maputo on 13 April came from Mozambican elephants, according to the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, interviewed in the independent online paper “A Verdade”.
It was initially believed that such a large haul of ivory, weighing 3.5 tonnes, may have resulted from the slaughter of elephants in neighbouring countries.
But Correia was convinced that many of the tusks came from stockpiles of ivory held in the north of Mozambique. The seizure at the port, he said, “happened after organised crime had assaulted our installations in Niassa province and stolen much of the ivory that was there”.
He believed that many of the tusks came from the warehouse of the Niassa Provincial Forestry and Wildlife Services in the city of Lichinga. Thieves had broken into the warehouse through the roof, and had helped themselves repeatedly to the stockpiles of ivory. 85 tusks were stolen in 2016 and 2017, a crime that clearly required the connivance of workers at the Forestry and Wildlife Services.
But that still leaves the origin of 782 tusks unexplained. Either the theft at the Niassa warehouse was on a much larger scale than admitted, or the tusks came from other locations. A source from the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), cited by “A Verdade”, believed that the other tusks came from the hundreds of elephants poached in the Niassa National Reserve, the largest of the country’s wildlife reserves, and perhaps also from district warehouses, including in the southern provinces.
Correia was angered that the courts have not acted to halt environmental crimes. He insisted that in the case of the Niassa theft “people were caught, but the justice system doesn’t work. Up until now nobody has been found guilty”.
The Minister added that he was unsure whether a Chinese citizen caught red-handed in the possession of 4.2 kilos of rhinoceros horns at Maputo airport on 15 April would serve a sentence in a Mozambican prison.
In theory there are now heavy penalties for trafficker sin illicit wildlife products. The penalties, not only for poachers but for those who run poaching rings, and for people who transport and store the products, range from eight to 16 years imprisonment. But courts have repeatedly allowed traffickers out on bail, and they have promptly disappeared before they could be brought to trial.
Correia said the Mozambican defence and security forces are on the ground in the Niassa Reserve to protect wildlife, but warned that the task is impossible without the cooperation of Tanzania, which borders on the reserve.
“The Niassa Reserve is larger than many nations, and has an enormous border”, said the Minister. “That makes it impossible to do this work without Tanzanian cooperation”.
Correia’s criticism of the lethargy of the justice system extends to illegal loggers. In early 2017, the authorities seized around 150,000 cubic metres of wood from trees that had been logged illegally, yet nobody has been held responsible for this devastation of Mozambican forests.
“We seized the wood on their premises, so how come they’ve not been jailed?”, asked Correia.Source: AIM