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General, Great Limpopo TFCA, TFCAs, Wildlife Crime, Zinave National Park

Chopping down illegal logging syndicates

The dedicated rangers in Zinave National Park, which is co-managed by the National Administration for Conservation Areas and Peace Parks Foundation, are successfully impeding the operations of sophisticated illegal logging syndicates intent on exploiting the natural resources of the Park for commercial gain.

The rangers conducted two challenging missions within consecutive weeks – covering many kilometres over the rough terrain in Zinave – which led to the discovery and seizure of a variety of equipment that is central to the destructive activities carried out by the loggers. 

Dismantling the camps set up by the illegal loggers is important for disrupting their activities.

In the first operation, the rangers were on a reconnaissance mission which progressed into an around-the-clock chase through the thick bush in pursuit of the loggers.   

“The rangers acted on intel about a new road that had been carved out by vehicle activity on the western boundary,” says one of Peace Parks’ counter poaching coordinators. “Upon following the road, fresh tractor tracks were found heading into the Park. Informants must have told the tractor driver that he was being followed, because after a while, the tracks left the road and went straight into the dense bush.”  

Some of the equipment seized during the counter poaching operations by rangers in Zinave.

What followed was an intense game of cat-and-mouse, as the rangers spent the remaining six hours of a very warm day following the tracks through the rugged terrain of Zinave. 

The tractor driver tried his best to shake us off as he bashed his way through the bush. But with a very motivated and dedicated team, we continued to track him down into the night. The hard work eventually paid off as we found the tractor abandoned, idling at a small camp, with motorcycle tracks fleeing the scene.

Peace Parks counter poaching coordinator

The following week, another operation resulted in the seizure of a second tractor, a chainsaw and various other materials, and the destruction of another camp used by illegal loggers.  

“The driver was detained, and logistically and financially, the syndicates suffered again. We disrupted the loading of a truck scheduled for the following day, which would have exited the reserve with a full load of logs.” 

Illegal logging takes a heavy toll on mature trees from key species that are integral for the health of ecosystems.

Under Mozambican law, owners are able to reclaim seized vehicles within a 15-day period, with the payment of a hefty fine that escalates with additional transgressions. In this case, two fines were paid to Zinave National Park, totalling 379 780 mt (more than US$5 000). If more than three offences are committed, then the case will be taken up by the courts.  

“Fortunately for the anti-logging initiatives in the park, many vehicles and other equipment seized over the years have not been reclaimed and permanently removed from the syndicates. Apart from this, the payment of fines is a major blow to the illegal logging operations,” the anti-poaching coordinator explains.  

The seizure of tractors significantly hampers illegal logging operations.

Since 2017, Peace Parks, who has a 20-year co-management agreement for Zinave with the Government of Mozambique, has dramatically elevated counter-poaching operations in the park. This includes training and employing 25 new field rangers from local communities; improving counter-poaching strategies; setting up a central operations control room with digital communications system; purchasing vehicles, trucks, and motorbikes; and acquiring an airplane to support aerial surveillance and conservation management. 

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