A Year of Zero Poaching in Mozambique

After losing nearly 60 percent of its elephant population from 2011 to 2014, Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve now has a victory to celebrate: one year with no recorded elephant poachings. (Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society)

Across their home continent, African elephants continue to die more from illegal killing than from any other cause. Habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and demand for ivory, which is primarily driven by consumers in Asia, have all contributed to and exacerbated this trend. But through conservation partnerships and support from USAID, the Mozambican government is now able to celebrate one year with no recorded elephant poachings. The government took critical steps to boost law enforcement response times, initiate aerial monitoring, and, ultimately, protect the recovering elephant population.

Niassa National Reserve spans 42,300 square kilometers, an area larger than Switzerland, making monitoring, reporting, and disrupting wildlife crime a challenge. USAID works with the Wildlife Conservation Society to implement the Ecosystem Conservation, Markets, and Tourism (ECOSMART) project, including coordinated anti-poaching activities. A Cessna airplane and helicopter allow scouts and authorities to move quickly across the landscape and respond to poaching threats in rapid time. The aircraft also conduct year-round aerial monitoring, improving both crime and deforestation surveillance.

Niassa National Reserve
An aerial view of Niassa National Reserve. Photo: Mozambique Administração Nacional Das Áreas de Conservação.

In addition to the elephant population, Niassa and its surrounding area are home to about 40,000 people who depend on the Reserve’s wildlife, ecosystems, and tourism revenue. Poaching threatens these communities’ safety and security. Across East Africa, criminal networks traffic ivory and other illicit wildlife parts to fund their activities; their presence destabilizes rule of law and often exploits the most poor and vulnerable members of communities. Reduced poaching curbs the power of these criminal groups, while also preserving the landscape’s ecological balance and local livelihoods.

The last recorded poaching in Niassa was on May 17, 2018. With strong alliances and capable law enforcement, Mozambique has been able to improve wildlife conservation and community well-being, moving another step forward on its journey to self-reliance.

Learn more about USAID’s biodiversity conservation efforts in Mozambique.