hino-poaching syndicates are turning our young Mozambican men into criminals. Too many of them are coming back in body bags. We have to stop this,” says Dr Leonardo Simão, executive director of the Joaquim Chissano Foundation and its wildlife preservation initiative.
Unconfirmed figures indicate that about 490 poachers were “neutralised” – arrested and/or killed during skirmishes with rangers inside the Kruger National Park over the past five years. At least 80% of them were Mozambican. That’s 392 Mozambican men.
The park refuses to say how many of these men were killed. But City Press learnt reliably that more than 220 poachers lost their lives over the past five years. Last year alone, 110 Mozambicans were “neutralised” while poaching rhinos inside the Kruger Park, and about 30 South Africans too. In 2013, an unconfirmed 47 poachers died in firefights with rangers.
On one day two weeks ago, 10 rhino carcasses were found and there were 11 poacher casualties and injuries during skirmishes between rangers and poachers. They were all from Mozambique.
By April this year, 33 poachers were arrested in the Kruger Park, most of them from Mozambique. Last year, a record 151 poachers were arrested in the park – also mostly Mozambicans.
“The link between the destruction of wildlife and poverty is established and very strong. We’re assisting the Mozambican government to preserve wildlife. To do that, we have to help create alternatives to communities around the park. We have to first stop the killing and criminalisation of Mozambicans. We have to focus on the syndicates.” Simão is as good as his word. Last year, landowners on the Mozambican side of the Kruger Park said that whenever rhinos made it through the park’s fence, they “contact the Kruger, which dispatches a helicopter to chase the rhinos back inside”.
“Rhinos don’t last in Mozambique for more than a couple of days,” said the owner of a game lodge on the border of the southern part of the park.
But that was then. In the eight months since the Chissano Foundation’s preservation initiative began, the Mozambican government and the Peace Parks Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding, beefed up security around the border with the Kruger Park and launched antipoaching operations around Mozambique’s
THE FRONT LINE
This house is seen as a ‘staging post – a place where poachers stay before crossing into the park at night