Poachers have taken to using poison as well as firearms to kill elephants in Magoe district, in the western Mozambican province of Tete.
The authorities fear that this may lead to the extinction of elephants in the Magoe National Park. According to the Tete Provincial Director of Land, the Environment and Rural Development, Filipe Duarte, poachers killed 29 elephants in the park in 2015, compared with 25 the previous year.
“In addition to firearms, the poachers are using poison”, he said. “They put the poison in the water sources where the animals drink, and also smear poison on fruits the elephants like to eat. This means they are also decimating other species”.
Duarte said that once they have poisoned an elephant, the poachers simply hack off its tusks and leave the carcass where he animal fell. This is a lethal threat to local villagers, who might eat the meat of the dead elephant and fall victim to the same poison.
“We are warning people not to eat the meat from an animal when they don’t know how it died”, he said. “The poachers are just interested in the tusks and not the meat”.
Wardens have also seized a variety of traps and snares in Magoe used by poachers to catch smaller animals.
“We are urging the people to defend their natural resources, in the framework of the Tchuma-Chathu (“Our Wealth”) project, which consists in the community management of resources”, Duarte added. “The revenue from tourism fees helps build schools and health units, among other benefits to the local communities”.
Tchuma-Chathu is implemented not only in Mágoè, but in four other Tete districts – Zumbo, Cahora Bassa, Marávia and Changara.
The Magoe National Park was recently approved by the government, with the intention of protecting the natural resources in the area.