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Protection against poisonous poachers intensifies

31 October 2017

Limpopo National Park, October 2017 - With their sights firmly set on killing high-value species such as rhinos, elephant and lions, poachers are persisting in their attacks on the wildlife assets of national parks in Africa. This situation is no different in Limpopo National Park in Mozambique where an escalation in the poaching of rhino and elephant has been witnessed over the past three years.
This was again evident last week when cross-border anti-poaching efforts by ranger patrols of Limpopo and Kruger national parks identified a poacher camp with carcasses of 37 vultures and two jackals, along with the carcasses of a waterbuck, a wildebeest and a snared impala which had each been laced with poison most likely to bait and kill lion.
At a second site the poisoned carcass of a zebra was surrounded by the remains of 12 more vultures. Considering that most vulture species are even more threatened as a species than rhino, this is a great tragedy. Fortunately, the poachers had not been successful in killing any lions at either of these sites. Lions are also disparagingly threatened, with current worldwide estimates indicating that there are only 20,000 wild lion remaining, as opposed to an estimated population of 29,000 rhino. This month, the 12th session of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) added lion to the official Appendices as a cross-border migratory species that requires increased protection through international conservation cooperation.

Concerned about the impact of continued poaching on the sustainable development of Limpopo National Park, Peace Parks Foundation recently mobilised additional funding amounting to more than R7 million to help bolster anti-poaching efforts in the park, and is also pleased to announce the contribution of a further €880,000 from the French Development Agency. This is over and above an approximate R13 million already allocated by the Foundation to the development and operations of the park for the period 2014-2018. The financial support is made possible through the generous support of the Dutch and Swedish Postcode Lotteries and other private donors.
Working in partnership with Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC), Peace Parks Foundation is using the funds to establish an expanded Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) in Limpopo National Park.

With more than one million hectares to patrol, implementing effective anti-poaching strategies throughout the expanse of the Park remains a significant challenge. The IPZ strategy allocates 80% of anti-poaching resources to the protection of vital hotspots identified along the park’s western border - a boundary shared with Kruger National Park, and the section of Limpopo National Park with the largest concentration of game. This area remains a critical focus point for illegal activities of wildlife crime syndicates.
To strengthen impact in the IPZ, senior operational and technical staff have been appointed to coordinate intensified ranger patrols. This is managed from a new central command centre that has been equipped with the latest technology systems, which also connects with the Park’s new digital radio network. The radio network allows for real-time position monitoring of patrols to improve the safety and operational capability of the field ranger units, as well as enables cross-border communications between Limpopo and Kruger national parks.

In addition, funding is used to cover the operational costs of a dedicated aircraft operating in the IPZ; provide advanced field training to rangers; operate a ranger incentive scheme; as well as equip rangers with vital patrol gear. This includes providing them with durable, hard terrain motorcycles to patrol otherwise inaccessible locations, and specialised smartphones for the collection of critical live data from the field.
Beyond the disruption of poaching, there is a shared vision for the development of the IPZ as central to establishing sustainable eco-tourism in the Park – truly showcasing the exquisiteness of the Park’s beauty and harnessing the potential of unique cross-border collaboration on tourism as part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. These interventions will ensure an improved wildlife product and will enable development of tourism strategies and products within the IPZ.

Although there is much work still to be done, improved anti-poaching strategies are already delivering positive results: patrols have increased from 81 to 144 per month; apprehensions by the Park’s rangers have resulted in six convictions this year; and only one elephant is known to have been poached in the park during 2017 - a significant reduction on the previous year when 9 elephants were lost.

A reward is being offered to anyone who comes forward with information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of person(s) involved in wildlife crime within Limpopo National Park. Please contact the Parks Warden, Mr Cornelio Miguel on +258 87 403 6989 or corneliomiguel@gmail.com.