Massingir, Mozambique — Authorities in the Limpopo National Park (PNL) in southern Mozambique have revealed that 14 suspected poachers were arrested and eleven firearms seized in the first five months of this year.
As a result of these detentions, fines totalling 28 million meticais (880,000 US dollars) have been imposed by the park’s authorities.
However, the park’s project manager, Antony Alexander, told AIM the problem is that the poachers fail to pay the fines. He explained that although the fines are issued by the park’s investigation team, if they are not paid the park must submit an enforcement request to the fiscal court in Maputo.
Alexander lamented, “this is an incredibly time consuming and expensive procedure, involving lawyers and trips to Maputo”.
Last year, eleven million meticais in fines were issued to forty poachers. But only five per cent of the fines have so far been paid.
Alexander stressed that the fines system is a good one when it works.
Half the funds are spent on conservation work, with the remainder given to the field rangers as incentive payments. However, he pointed out that the refusal to pay fines could be a disincentive when the rangers see no return for their work.
He added that although the poachers are not wealthy, they are supported by people with absolutely no financial difficulty in paying the fines.
Park official Jose Filimao Sitoe stated the main targets for poachers were elephants and rhinoceros.
He pointed out that his staff’s recent success in seizing firearms and animal trophies is partly due to the routine inspection of all cars passing through the park. Sitoe explained it is clear that behind the poachers are people financing the provision of vehicles and arms, and selling the trophies.
To combat the continuing damage caused by poaching, the park is considering new measures including the introduction of a dog unit.
Limpopo National Park covers over 1.1 million hectares, and was set up as part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also includes the Kruger National Park in South Africa, and the Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe. Between them, the three parks cover a total area of 5.5 million hectares.