Mozambique: New Stiffer Penalties for Poaching


Mozambique News Agency

Date Published

The Assembly of the Republic on 9 April unanimously passed the first reading of a bill on conservation areas, which dramatically increases the penalties for poaching, particularly of endangered species.

Introducing the bill, Tourism Minister Carvalho Muaria said the current legislation “does not allow for severe penalties against offenders, and so there are no measures that discourage poaching”.

The pressure on wildlife from poaching had increased significantly in recent years. The animals most at risk were elephants and rhinoceros. Muaria said that, in the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, Mozambique’s largest conservation area, the Niassa Reserve, in the far north, had lost elephants to poachers at the rate of two to three a day.

The Minister noted that Mozambique is also used as a corridor to smuggle ivory and rhino horns (often from rhinos killed in South Africa) to the Asian market.

The bill proposes prison sentences of between eight and 12 years for people who kill, without a licence, any protected species, or who use banned fishing gear, such as explosives or toxic substances. The same penalty will apply to people who set forests or woodlands on fire (poachers often use fire to drive animals into the open).

Anybody using illegal firearms or snares can be sentenced to two years imprisonment.

In addition, those found guilty of the illegal exploitation, storage, transport or sale of protected species will be fined between 50 and 1,000 times the minimum monthly national wage in force in the public administration (at current exchange rates, that would be a fine of between US$4,425 and US$88,500).

Violation of the provisions of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) could result in a fine of up to a thousand times the national minimum wage. So ivory or rhino poachers, if caught, are looking at a prison term of 12 years and a fine of US$90,000.

Those who degrade ecosystems through deforestation, fire “or any other voluntary act” will be obliged to restore the area to its previous condition. If they cause the decline of any wildlife species, they will have to pay for restocking, in addition to any other penalties imposed by the courts.

“The Mozambican state fully accepts its responsibility to humanity to protect the biological diversity on its territory”, said Muaria.

The bill, he added, seeks to ensure the “rehabilitation and reorganisation of conservation areas, and to design innovative and pragmatic management models, reconciled with the interests of public and private sectors and of the communities who live within and nearby the conservation areas”.

Each conservation area will be run by a Management Council, chaired by the government-appointed administrator of the area, and including representatives of local communities, private businesses and local state bodies.

The bill adds that the state “may establish partnerships with the private sector, local communities, national and foreign civil society organisations, through contracts, and with the private partner financing in whole or in part the administration of the conservation areas, thus creating synergies in favour of the preservation of biological diversity”.

Any public or private body authorised to exploit natural resources in a conservation area or its buffer zone, must compensate for its impacts “and ensure that there is no net loss of biodiversity”.

Current conservation areas cover about 25 per cent of Mozambique’s surface area. The bill divides them into “areas of total conservation”, and “conservation areas of sustainable use”.

The former term covers nature reserves and national parks. In these areas no hunting, agriculture, logging, mining or other acts that may damage biodiversity are permitted. The introduction of exotic species is also banned.

Cultural or natural monuments are also fully protected, and the bill guarantees the preservation of any rare, endemic or endangered species found there.

The “conservation areas of sustainable use” include special reserves, environmental protection areas, official hunting areas, community conservation areas, wildlife sanctuaries and private wild life farms.

Each of these has its own set of rules, but they are less stringent than for national parks. In some of them hunting is allowed under licence, and communities are allowed to exploit their resources for their own subsistence, and in a sustainable manner.

Any tourist or other activities authorised in conservation areas must pay fees to the state, fixed by the government, and a certain percentage of those fees will be channelled to the local communities.