Four Groups Identified in Elephant Poaching (Mbombela, South Africa)


Hanti Schrader, News24 

Date Published

Kruger National Park (KNP) officials have identified four groups of Mozambican poachers who kill elephants and hack out their tusks to sell them off illegally.

Marius Snyders, Vlakteplaas regional field ranger in the north of Kruger, said the poachers were taking advantage of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

The Limpopo National Park, together with the Kruger and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, form part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

“Most of the poachers of our elephants come from Mozambique, using the corridor between KNP and the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The fence was taken down in 1994 as per agreement. They use heavy-calibre weapons, often equipped with silencers.

“Even with a silencer you can hear the shots in the open veld and we have more than an hour to get to the carcass, because that is how long it takes for the poachers to remove the tusks; an hour and a half,” said Snyders.

Snyders said elephants had to be shot in their soft organs or groin to bring them down.

Once again, like with the statistics of rhino falling prey to poachers, there seems to be some confusion.

The department of environmental affairs spokesperson, Eleanor Momberg, confirmed that while 22 elephants were poached last year, 15 have already been poached this year.

However, a ranger who spoke to a News24 correspondent during a recent media excursion in the Kruger said the count so far for this year stands closer to 60.

This has been denied by authorities in the department and the South African National Parks (SANParks).

SANParks acting head of communication, William Mabasa, said there are around 16 000 elephants in the Kruger alone.

“Our rangers are dealing with anti-poaching as a whole. We do not only deal with specific species,” he said.

Mabasa said the poisoning of elephants has only been reported once this year.

“We only had one poisoning case since the beginning of this year and therefore we cannot at this stage label poisoning as a problem,” he said.

At the end of February this year, two lions and 110 white-backed vultures died after feasting on the poisoned carcass of an elephant. A year before, an elephant, four African lions and 46 vultures also died after being poisoned in the Kruger.