Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

NINE hundred elephants have been slaughtered in northern Mozambique in a renewed onslaught on the country’s elephant population as the international price of ivory soars.

The 900 mammals were killed in the Quirimbas National Park over a three-year period from 2010 to 2013, according to an aerial survey commissioned late last year by the World Wide Fund (WWF) in Mozambique. Almost half of the elephants seen from the air were dead and in various stages of decay.

Colman O’Criodain, WWF International’s expert on wildlife trade, said

: “Mozambique has emerged as one of the main places of the slaughter of elephants and ivory transit in Africa and as a profitable warehouse for transit and export of rhino horn for the Asian markets. We need to see urgent action and commitment to combat these illegal activities.”

Alvo Ofumane, WWF’s communications officer in Maputo, said yesterday it was clear the elephants had been killed for their tusks.

“Only the tusks are taken… The ivory market is the main driver of this situation, and the tusks are very valuable on the international market. We are very worried about the situation, not only in terms of biodiversity loss, but it raises other issues like security. This poaching also threatens other forms of sustainable development, like tourism. If you don’t have elephants, you don’t have tourism,” Ofumane said.

The Quirimbas National Park on the northern coast of Mozambique stretches for 110km along the coast and contains 11 of the Quirimbas islands. Established in 2002, it encompasses 750 639 hectares and is home to elephants, lions, leopards and wild dogs. Its habitats include mountains, forests, woodland, savannah, mangroves, beaches and coral reefs.

Ofumane said some local companies had reported a loss of business recently, which they attributed to the effects of poaching.

“Some are saying this year they are not getting people to visit the lodges because there are no elephants, so they are worried. Also, the poachers are using guns and that is a problem, because where do those guns come from and where are they going?”

He said poachers used several methods to kill the elephants, including guns, traps and poison. There were reports that some of the elephants had begun to migrate from the Quirimbas park to avoid the poachers.

WWF said conservation NGOs, wildlife experts and government officials were meeting in Maputo this week to find ways to counter this renewed onslaught on the elephant and rhino populations in southern Africa. The meeting comes in the wake of the alarming poaching statistics in Mozambique and in South Africa, where the rhino population is being hammered.

WWF said Mozambique no longer had any wild rhino left, but was “heavily implicated” in poaching of rhinos in South Africa. Poaching was run by well-organised criminal networks facilitated by corruption.

This year the Kruger National Park reported the first case of elephant poaching in 10 years.

l Yesterday both State and defence closed their cases in the trial of Cheng Jie Liang, who was arrested in Table View in 2012 for possession of more than 3 000 tusks.

The case was postponed until July 25.