A proposed bill that will rapidly increase the penalties for poaching wildlife, particularly of endangered species, in conservation areas in Mozambique has passed the parliament’s first reading.
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”.
Muaria said that over the last six months (October 2012-March 2013) Mozambique´s largest conservation area, the Niassa Reserve, had lost two to three elephants to poachers a day. 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, even if they do not catch protected species, 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 4,425 and 88,500 US dollars).
Violation of the provisions of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) could also 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 almost 90,000 dollars).
“The Mozambican state fully accepts its responsibility to humanity to protect the biological diversity on its territory”, said Muaria.
The bill, he added, also seeks to ensure the “rehabilitation and reorganisation of conservation areas, and to design innovative and pragmatic management models, reconciled with the interests of the public and private sectors and of the communities who live within and nearby the conservation areas”.