By Jinty Jackson
Mozambique's elephant population risks being obliterated within a decade unless tight anti-poaching measures are introduced, conservationists have warned. The alarming scale of the poaching problem has become increasingly apparent, with an aerial survey of the north of the country in 2011 tallying 2,667 elephant carcasses in the vast Niassa reserve alone.
Mozambique's pachyderms have seen little peace dividend since the nation's brutal civil war ended 20 years ago.
"If we work out the numbers, in eight years probably we will have no elephants left," said Carlos Lopes Pereira, a technical adviser for the global Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
It is left to an anti-poaching force dependent on funding from overseas to protect the elephants and preserve a resource that could draw vital tourist dollars.
The few game rangers that exist are ill-equipped to do their job, using bolt-action rifles dating back to World War II.
In contrast the poachers, thought to be part of vast syndicates based in the Horn of Africa, use high-calibre military weaponry and advanced hunting techniques.
"They are able to shoot many animals at the same time," said Pereira, explaining that poachers know how to approach a herd, shoot the matriarch first and then hone in on five or six other animals amid the chaos that follows.
Already wildlife authorities are seeing changes in the composition of herds as a result of poaching.
There are now more orphans and calves falling prey to lions, said Pereira.
That is part of a broader trend seen across Africa, with the UN Environment Programme and other wildlife groups reporting alarming declines in elephant numbers in parts of Central and West Africa.
Previously secure populations in eastern and southern parts of the continent are now coming under threat as demand for tusks, particularly in Asia, heats up. More....