Mr. Jacobus J Von Landsberg has been living in Taratibo for 22 years. Taratibo is a bush camp in a 35,000 ha concession inside Quirimbas National Park, in Cabo Delgado province. He calls himself the “Ambassador for the Elephants”: in his concession he has been in touch with several herds that total more than 100 elephants. This was until 14 months ago, because in the last 14 months, 85 elephants were killed. Mothers, youngsters, baby elephants, indiscriminately. Jacob’s camp is now a cemetery of the elephant jaws he collects from the carcasses, to show the world, so that we do not forget. There are jaws of adults, jaws of juveniles, jaws of babies. “Some were born when the pregnant mother was killed. Youngsters are mostly killed so that the mothers do not run away and become easy targets for the poachers”. Jacobs explained visibly sad and full of emotion.
One of the saddest stories is the one jaw of the mommy elephant, her molars with signs of wear and tear, together with the jaw of her baby elephant, “it is most probably the last baby the old mother was having, their life terminated together by a cash of AKM bullets. Such an undignifying way of dying”, he murmurs, Jacob says he may not be an Ambassador for much longer.“sooner, there won’t be any elephants to work for”. But he keeps talking, showing us. There is this hole was built in the road, the work of fof poachers hunting the elephants. The elephant that fells did not survive; it is was killed by fire, burning leaves and firewood thrown on the top of him in the hole. “Not only elephants are hunted to extension for their ivory, they die agonizing deaths” he said. And the survivors, Jacob’s say, mostly youngster, are roaming around, aimlessly, with no adult memory to identify the routes and the sources of water, they may die of starvation, if not killed by the poachesr.
The number of elephants in this area has been steadily increasing since the end of the war in Mozambique, in the 90’s. Then, in 2002, the Qurimbas National Park was created and part of Jacob’s concession ended up inside the Park. He promptly partnered with the Park in the control and management of the area. The number of elephants kept growing. Now the situation is like no other. . Poachers have sophisticated networks of informants, a lot of money is being available so that the incentives pay for the risks, guns and ammunition are readily available. The poachers are better armed than the Park rangers, bureaucracy interfering with the quality of law enforcement. But it is also true that law enforcement was weak and no appropriate systems were put in place.
With a new and experienced Park Warden in place, there are all signs that the tide is going to be turned. Before it is too late.