The tons of ivory seized in Cambodia last December not only arrived from the port of Pemba but was from Mozambican elephants. “We know exactly where it came from. Now the process has been handed over to the Attorney General’s Office and we expect to hear something soon,” Carlos Lopes Pereira, head of the Inspection Department of the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), told @Verdade.
Last December, Cambodian customs authorities seized 2016’s biggest trophy haul, comprising 1,300 kg of ivory, 10 animal skulls, 137 kg of pangolin scales and 82 other wild animal bones hidden in three containers of logs shipped from Pemba in Cabo Delgado province.
Thanks to the Government’s efforts to combat illegal hunting and with the support of cooperation partners, it was possible to determine that the ivory was taken from elephants in one the conservation area where they were killed.
“We know the DNA of our elephants,” Carlos Lopes Pereira said in an interview with @Verdade, explaining that information is collected regularly and stored in an international database. When there is a seizure, authorities can take a sample and easily verify the source.
ANAC Director of Conservation Services, Agustinho de Nazaré Mangueze, told @Verdade that, in the case of Mozambique, a national cataloging of ivory was carried out about a year ago. “Ivory is warehoused all over the country from animals that die naturally, or are killed in the context of conflicts with the local population, and seized after illegal hunting.”
Mangueze explained that the cataloging process included “weighing, photographing and DNA sampling, all sent to a specific laboratory where they are certified and stored”.
“There is still a marking process using indelible ink. We are trying to be better organized. In the past we couldn’t even establish whether the ivory exported illegally from Mozambique had just passed through here or originated from our national reserves,” Mangueze said.
According to Pereira, despite efforts by various sectors of the Mozambican government, there is still “a terrible slaughter in the north”, even though the numbers of dead elephants have declined in absolute terms.
“Before, there were about eleven thousand elephants, today there are six thousand. By the time we had eleven thousand, 1,500 elephants a year were being killed, or about seven a day day. Now there are six thousand and about 700 elephants per year are being killed. So, proportionately, many are still being slaughtered. The number has only decreased because there are fewer elephants to kill,” Pereira says.
Pereira says that the illegal elephant hunting is well organized, highlighting for example the packaging of the trophies found in Cambodia. Not only did it take hundreds of wooden logs, but no single person could have done it, as it would have been necessary to work in a timber yard to open up the logs and pack the trophies in wax so that they wouldn’t be damaged.