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The government has determined that 25 pachyderms may be legally shot in Mozambique by the end this year.
Environmentalists complain to @Verdade that the criteria used in establishing hunting quotas even are not made public, even though the results of the 3rd National Census of the world’s largest terrestrial mammal are still pending, and despite one of the government’s main priorities being “Ensuring the Sustainable and Transparent Management of Natural Resources and the Environment” and the country receiving millions of donor dollars for the National Plan of Protection of the Elephant.
The hunting season in Mozambique runs from 1 April to 30 November, for which period the Ministerial Diploma 23/2019 of March 15, signed by Minister Celso Correia, has established hunting quotas for the shooting of 19,864 wild animals. Prominent in the document in the possession of @Verdade are 49 lions, 103 leopards and 25 elephants.
Mozambique is one of the largest elephant cemeteries in the world, the approximately 10,000 killed by poachers between 2010 and 2015 having reduced the population to about 9,000. Since then, nearly 500 elephants have been slaughtered by illegal hunters for their tusks, which are then trafficked from the conservation areas through domestic ports and airports to insatiable markets in China.
The start of Filipe Nyusi’s mandate saw the protection of the elephant and other animals species become a national priority, so @Verdade asked the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER) why a protected species was on the list of animals which could legally be hunted in 2019.
More than a week later, neither Minister Celso Correia nor the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) had respond to the queries.
To hunt an elephant costs at least US$50,000
An official at one of the wilderness farms in southern Mozambique, where six elephants are to be hunted, told @Verdade that “animals occupy a territorial space, and eat and drink water. Hunting is a sustainable management tool”.
The source, who asked not to be identified, cited as an example that parts of the Kruger National Park are reportedly semi-desertified. “The explanation is that the elephants push trees over, and when the number of animals in a given area surpasses its load capacity, they are a problem and the number must be brought down”.
“Yes, it generates revenue that is paid to the state, and 20 percent goes to the surrounding communities,” our interviewee, who estimated that shooting an elephant hunt would cost at least US$50,000, confirmed.
Hunting can generate revenue to protect wildlife and benefit local people
But for environmentalist and conservationist Alastair Nelson nothing justifies the hunting of animals, particularly the African elephant. However, in many countries, “the costs of protecting the environment, wildlife and natural areas are borne by poor people living in or near conservation areas. These may be direct costs such as, for example, damage to agricultural fields, or indirect, such as lack of access to resources or land”.
“Ideally, these costs should be alleviated by the government, which should target economic development and social upgrading initiatives in these areas because these people incur into costs for the national benefit – national parks or protection of forests and river basins that benefit downstream users and so on. The people involved are relatively few in these remote areas, so governments and their development partners do not take on this responsibility and prefer to say that conservation organisations have to find ways of generating direct revenue from activities and share the benefits,” he explained.
According to Nelson, who has extensive experience working on biodiversity protection in Mozambique and abroad, “there are a few ways to do this, and trophy hunting is one of them. Trophy hunting is a particularly good tool in remote and wild places that are uncomfortable and hard to reach, and have low densities of wildlife. Most tourists who travel for photos do not want to go to these places and most of the wildlife areas in Mozambique fit that description, so hunting is important to bring revenue to government departments that protect wildlife and the environment, and also to bring benefits to the local population”.
However, attention is drawn to important aspects that have to work in order for hunting to be effective for conservation. “Is the revenue being collected correctly? Is the revenue being properly and transparently used ? Do the correct benefits flow to the local population regularly and transparently? Are the sites involved in the management of conservation areas? ”
Hunting quotas even in wildlife repopulation areas
However, there is a second aspect to be considered, which is related to wildlife numbers, especially those of elephant, in Mozambique.
Alluding to the 3rd National Elephant Census, which is expected to be released in the coming months, Nelson said he was unable to comment on the issue adequately
“But what I can say is that ANAC is doing its best to monitor and manage the elephant population in Mozambique. They stopped elephant hunting in Niassa Reserve after the 2014 count showed a large decline. This is the most important hunting area in Mozambique, and elephant hunting brought in a lot of revenue. There are some hunting areas in Mozambique that have done a very good job of protecting elephants, and I am sure they have populations healthy enough to hunt,” Nelson clarified.
Nelson pointed out that we need to take into account whether the number of elephants to be hunted is allocated to areas where we know that poaching rates are negligible and elephant populations are still increasing; to determine how many male elephants are there in specific sub-populations of elephants in Mozambique; and, once we have an estimate for male elephants in these sub-populations, to determine if 25 is a sustainable number.
The conservationist told @Verdade that trophy hunting targeted only adult elephants because, in addition to the hunting itself, it generates revenue from the ivory, which can be exported to the hunter’s home country through existing legal channels. Human-animal conflicts usually involve young male protagonists who are still establishing their territories.
Paradoxically, part of the elephants-hunting quota is allocated to wildlife parks in the Limpopo trans-frontier area, which was stripped of wildlife and now has animals donated by Zimbabwe and Botswana for its repopulation.
Biggest evangelical church in southern Africa threatens leopards in Mozambique
Regarding the 103 leopard set to be legally hunted this year, the ANAC told @Verdade in 2017 that it did not know the animals’ exact population numbers in Mozambique, but warned that the largest evangelical church in South Africa – that professed by the Zulus – was a threat to leopards in Mozambique.
“They wear garments which include leopard skin,” Carlos Lopes Pereira, chief of the Department of Surveillance of the National Administration of Conservation Areas, said, regretting that “there are no more leopards for this”.
By Adérito Caldeira