Wildlife traf­fick­ing

CityPress - - News - – Pear­lie Jou­bert

ad­ja­cent Lim­popo Na­tional Park. There has been a “marked changed” in poach­ing pat­terns.

The Mozam­bi­can gov­ern­ment has also de­ployed a spe­cially trained en­vi­ron­men­tal po­lice force along the bor­der. City Press learnt from two se­nior SA Na­tional Parks of­fi­cials in the Kruger Park that “up to 70% of all poach­ers en­ter from the western bound­ary of the park”.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of the work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Mozam­bi­can gov­ern­ment, pri­vate land op­er­a­tors and the Kruger, but there’s no doubt the ma­jor­ity of poach­ers now en­ter the park from vil­lages in South Africa dot­ting its western bound­ary,” said one se­nior of­fi­cial.

“Last year we saw most of the poach­ers en­ter­ing the Kruger from Mozam­bique. It’s changed dra­mat­i­cally. Our poach­ers, still mainly Mozam­bi­cans, now en­ter from South Africa. They’ve shifted their oper­a­tions – guns and trans­porta­tion – to South Africa. There’s no doubt about it,” said another se­nior Kruger Park of­fi­cial. Pres­i­dent of the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency Allan Thorn­ton has asked the US sec­re­tary of state to “cer­tify Mozam­bique and en­act sub­stan­tial trade sanc­tions that in­clude ... all listed spec­i­mens un­der the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora ex­ported to the US” be­cause of large-scale poach­ing and illegal trade in rhino horn and ele­phant ivory.

In his let­ter, Thorn­ton wrote that this “di­rectly un­der­cut Pres­i­dent [Barack] Obama’s July 2013 ex­ec­u­tive or­der on com­bat­ing wildlife traf­fick­ing”.

“Avail­able ev­i­dence in­di­cates that Mozam­bi­can na­tion­als con­sti­tute the high­est num­ber of for­eign ar­rests for poach­ing in South Africa. Or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cates based in Mozam­bique are driv­ing large-scale illegal trade in rhino horn and ele­phant ivory and sub­se­quent smug­gling to Viet­nam and other con­sum­ing na­tions such as China,” the let­ter reads.

Speak­ing from his of­fice in Ma­puto, Simão clearly un­der­stood the chal­lenge.

“We are talk­ing about a $19 bil­lion (R230 bil­lion) crim­i­nal trade deal­ing in wildlife. Rhino-horn traf­fick­ing is part of that trade. An­tipoach­ing and counter-traf­fick­ing pro­grammes form part of what we do,” he said.

“Mozam­bi­cans know that to poach is risky and illegal. They risk their lives, their chil­dren’s lives. But be­cause they profit, it’s worth the risk.

“We have to un­der­stand how the syn­di­cates op­er­ate. We’re get­ting there. We know that when a poacher is killed, the syn­di­cate will still bring the money to the fam­ily. So the fam­ily reck­ons: ‘We’ve lost our son, but are be­ing com­pen­sated.’

“So the next son also goes. At the foun­da­tion, we try to fo­cus on cre­at­ing al­ter­na­tives.

“The foun­da­tion is fo­cus­ing on the hu­man de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­ni­ties tak­ing those risks. We know from other coun­tries that bet­ter-off com­mu­ni­ties don’t poach,” Simão said.

“There’s not a sin­gle rhino left in Mozam­bique be­cause of poach­ing. We need rhi­nos back in Mozam­bique. Un­til April last year, poach­ing was not a crime in Mozam­bique. This is a long and tough road ahead. We’re cer­tain our coun­try is com­mit­ted to giv­ing com­mu­ni­ties de­cent al­ter­na­tives to turn­ing crim­i­nal.

“Then you also re­store peo­ple’s dig­nity. Our peo­ple don’t like be­ing on the wrong side of the law. Our kids don’t want to leave school to poach.”

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