Maputo — The Anti-Poaching Unit of the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique in 2014 seized about 180 homemade guns from local poachers, and removed over 3,300 snares and traps.
The Administrator of the park, Mateus Mutemba, declared on Thursday, when signing an anti-poaching protocol with the Portuguese Entreposto Group, that he is worried by the fact that an industry manufacturing these lethal artefacts is still thriving in the area surrounding the park.
“Year after year we register growth in the number of poaching incidents”, he said. “Last year we arrested about 250 poachers. There is a recurrent trend to manufacture these weapons and use them in poaching”.
Unlike what is happening in the Niassa Reserve in the far north, so far there is no record of military firearms being used to decimate wild life in Gorongosa. “But we don't make a great distinction between weapons of war and home-made guns”, said Mutemba, “because they all have the same purpose, which is to kill our animals, and to threaten the life of our wardens while they are doing their job of protecting the Park”.
Home-made guns could be very powerful, he noted. Last year one of the locally manufactured firearms which Park wardens had seized was powerful enough to bring down an elephant. In 2014, the park lost three of its elephants to poachers.
At the ceremony, the Entreposto Group donated 125,000 US dollars to the Anti-Poaching Unit. The protocol covers a five year period, with Entreposto disbursing 5,000 dollars per year.
The aim of the protocol is to increase the effectiveness of patrols, covering even the most remote areas in the park, and to ensure rapid intervention in neutralising poachers.
Other goals are to prevent illegal logging within the park, to avoid conflict between wild animals and communities (some of whom are still living inside the park boundaries), to step up the detection and collection of snares, and to make communities aware of the importance of preserving biodiversity.
Entreposto Group director Jose Cardoso said the company intended to make a long term contribution to the Anti-Poaching Unit.
Among the immediate uses of the money, he said, would be to acquire a patrol boat that can operate on the lakes and waterways of the park, to develop advanced and specialist training programmes for the wardens, and provide them with uniforms, boots and walkie-talkie radios.
With the Entreposto money, Mutemba said, “we intend to improve our capacity to confront the poachers. We have a force of 120 men who are protecting the Park day and night. We need to step up their training and improve the equipment they use”.
This year, aerial patrols will also be introduced, Mutemba added. The Park has acquired a light aircraft, giving it the capacity to spot illegal activity from the air.
The Gorongosa National Park covers an area of about 4,000 square kilometres in Sofala province, and is located at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley.