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CityPress - - News - PEAR­LIE JOU­BERT news@city­press.co.za

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

PHOTOS: PEAR­LIE JOU­BERT

Dr Leonardo

Simão

THE FRONT LINE

This house is seen as a ‘stag­ing post – a place where poach­ers stay be­fore cross­ing into the park at night

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