Mozambique easy on rhino poachers - KNP

2013-04-14 22:11
KNP ranger

KNP ranger

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Mbombela - Rhino-poaching is not part of Mozambican culture, says Mozambique Consul to Limpopo and Mpumalanga, Arthur Verissimo.

Verissimo was responding to concerns from the Kruger National Park that Mozambique was not seriously addressing the involvement of its own citizens in the poaching crisis that has crippled the national park.

“People cross the border all the time. These poachers are committing a crime (despite the fact that) we have security measures at the border.... It is not in our culture to poach rhino," Verissmo told African Eye News Service on Friday.

He admitted that some of the poachers come from Mozambique and said that some were even killed in the park.
He also conceded that there is no poaching in Mozambique "because people poach rhino in the Kruger National Park".

Kruger officials raised their concerns during a media tour in the park this past week.
They said that in order for the escalating rhino crisis in South Africa to be reversed, a multitude of problems in Mozambique need to be addressed.

“The root cause of poaching is high demand from Asia, but also at the core of the problem lie numerous issues in Mozambique,” said retired army Major General Johan Jooste, who is now the Kruger’s anti-poaching co-ordinator.

According to Jooste, the poaching crisis revolves around economic problems, an “unlimited recruitment” of foot soldiers and lawlessness which makes the country a safe haven for poachers.

Andrew Desmet, section ranger in the Shilowa region of the park, a known hotspot for infiltrations from Mozambique, said that Mozambican authorities did not have the same harsh attitude towards rhino poaching as South Africa did.
“There is a lot of corruption involved, even at the highest levels. In Mozambique, rangers themselves are often the people who kill rhino,” said Desmet.

Desmet added that legal differences between the two countries were also a major factor.
“Rhino poaching in Mozambique is viewed more as a misdemeanour and is often punishable with just a fine. Poachers can get into more trouble for carrying illegal firearms than for using those firearms to kill rhino,” he said. “I have hardly ever heard of arrests of rhino poachers being made there.”

Robin Hood

Kruger head of conservation Dr Freek Venter said that poachers are seen as “Robin Hood types” figures in their local villages.
“We apprehended a poacher last year and he told us that the whole community had come out to welcome him back with his rhino horns,” said Venter.

Villages close to the South African border are the main abodes for the hundreds of rhino poachers who infiltrate the park yearly.
Venter, who conducted a tour of some of these villages in late 2012, said that residents did not want the poaching to stop.
“Poachers drive the economy of these villages. They bring prosperity to these areas in a very poor country and therefore naturally villagers do not want them to stop,” he said.

Venter added that this situation made the problem of rhino poaching a “socio-political issue” and one which simply made anti-poaching strategies that much harder.

In addition, said Desmet, neutralising poachers simply increases demand for rhino horn.

“With one less poacher, rhino horn becomes less freely available, so naturally demand in Mozambique increases,” Desmet stated. “With such odds stacked against us, it is very difficult for us to eliminate the poaching.”

Jooste is of the opinion that the situation in Mozambique desperately needed to improve.

“It is essential that we improve the situation in Mozambique in order to make progress in this war. We need to form strong alliances with their authorities and address the root causes of greed and poverty,” he said. - African Eye News Service

Read more on:    sanparks  |  mozambique  |  rhino poaching

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