Epic Victory of Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve – Zero Elephant Poaching Last Year

A victory for The Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique, in southeast Africa, has been marked, it is scoring almost 20+ months without a single tusker lost to poachers. Precisely, 17 May 2018 is the last time a poacher killed an elephant in this reserve. Due to the raging organized poaching, The Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique had lost several hundreds of tuskers, before 2016. From 2016-2018, the number has decreased with an average of a few hundred killed each year. 

The dramatic turnaround was achievable through rigorous anti-poaching activities that have been deployed to achieve this success:

  • A compatible association of Govt. of Mozambique and privilege operators in Niassa Reserve
  • Deployment of a Rapid Intervention Unit. This unit of police formed is better armed than regular rangers
  • Spiking surveillance through different aviation and drone programs
  • Reinforcing harsh sentences for poachers

Did you know the size of the Niassa Reserve is more significant than the country of Switzerland? 

One wonders how much effort would have been needed to achieve zero poaching goals. James Bampton, who is a country director with New-York based Wildlife Conservation Society, calls it a remarkable achievement. This new success has encouraged a hope that elephants in the Niassa Reserve “stand a genuine chance for recovery.” In addition to that, the partnership helps to keep watch for illegal fishing activities in The Reserve. The reinforcement of harsher sentences weakened these poaching activities, and many cases had been prosecuted under severe penalties. 

Elephants in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique. WCS Mozambique

The Reserve was the ultimate spot of tragic poaching of tuskers, mainly from 2009-2014. It would not be wrong to call these five years as catastrophic times for the ecosystem. Poaching is a threat to our ecosystem, creating an imbalance. It is the greed of organized criminals who want to kill and sell animals to humans to satisfy their needs. Poachers are usually the impoverished people looking for ready cash. As per the aerial survey, from 2000 – 2011, there existed an average estimate of 12,000 elephants at this reserve. A dramatic reduction in population was recorded in five years 2009-2014. In contrast to 12,000 tuskers, only 3,675 elephants were recorded in the year 2016. 

Given the vast colossal extent of wildlife in The Niassa Reserve, it is one of the few sites in Africa capable of sustaining a robust population of elephants. The reserve is a part of the Niassa-Selous Transfrontier Conservation Area of a natural and untouched landscape. Per some research, it is currently estimated to sustain a multitude of 20,000 elephants. 

Regardless of the well-calculated efforts of Govt. of Mozambique and privilege operators in Niassa Reserve, it will take an unknown amount of years for the elephant population to overhaul to its former levels. Experts claim that annual tusker losses still surpass the birth rate, and the intrusion of human settlements is shrinking the animals’ range. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, poaching of elephants has radically declined to pre-2008 levels after reaching a peak in the year 2011.