Maputo — The Niassa provincial court, in northern Mozambique has sentenced three poachers, two of them of Tanzanian nationality, and the third a Mozambican, to ten years imprisonment for hunting and killing elephants in the Niassa National Reserve, the country's largest conservation area, Radio Mozambique reported on Thursday.
The three poachers were arrested in possession of a firearm and ammunition (the type was not specified) and 12 elephant tusks. This group had thus been responsible for killing at least six elephants.
As part of the court's sentence, the gun, the vehicle used by the poachers, and the tusks are all confiscated and revert to the state.
There has been a major onslaught by poachers against the elephant herds in the Niassa Reserve in recent years.
According to the latest elephant census, the total number of elephants in Mozambique declined by 48 per cent in five years - from just over 20,000 in 2009 to 10,300 in 2014.
Most of the losses occurred in Niassa and the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado, where the elephant population fell from around 15,400 to 6,100. The Niassa National Reserve was hardest hit. Here the number of elephants fell from around 12,000 to an estimated 4,440. In the census, 43 per cent of all elephants seen in the Niassa Reserve were carcasses.
Most of the poachers decimating elephant populations in the north come from Tanzania. The government is therefore working with the Tanzanian authorities to staunch the poaching.
In May, the Mozambican Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia and the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, signed an agreement in Maputo on protecting the vast cross-border conservation area that covers the Niassa Reserve and Tanzania's Selous Reserve, an area of around 15,000 square kilometers.