For the past three months, Madagascar’s southeast has fallen prey to violent conflicts between zebu breeders and poachers. Angry villagers recently ambushed a group of poachers without soliciting help from the local police force. Our Observer went to the remote village of Fenoevo, where nearly 90 thieves were summarily executed.
In the Malagasy tradition, the theft of zebus is an initiation rite for young men to prove their virility prior to marriage. But today, this rite of passage has morphed into organized crime, as a zebu can be sold for 200 euros on the black market.
Corrupt veterinarians and bureaucrats help organize the export of zebu meat to foreign nations. At the lowest rungs of this growing illegal trade are the “dahalos” (“zebu hunters” in Malagasy), who terrorise the countryside, armed with AK-47s. Most of the time, they bribe members of the military to allow them to poach with impunity.
The increasing levels of crime in the region have galvanised villagers to band together to try to ensure the safety of their herds. Since the end of August, zebu breeders have launched a series of deadly attacks, which have led to the death of more than 100 “dahalos” in several villages in southeast Madagascar. Several policemen were also killed during these conflicts. Faced with this violence, the government has announced a plan to send special forces into the region. More....