An open letter to Mozambique by Josphat Ngonyo, founder, Africa Network for Animal Welfare:
Mr. Daniel Antonio
Mozambique High Commission
Your Excellency, it our hope that this letter finds you well in the service of your great country, Mozambique.
On behalf of Africa Network forAanimal Welfare (ANAW), a network of organizations and individuals interested in promoting humane treatment of animals in Africa while working with communities and governments, I write to you Sir, with the aim of engaging with you, on the most recent development in your country, the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) approving $40 million grant to your country, to fund conservation efforts that include strengthening the country’s program of selling the rights to hunt wild animals. I write to your government to request you to reconsider this grant in light of the unmistakable negative effects this would have on wildlife conservation in Mozambique and the rest of Africa at large.
This is probably not new information to your office but is worth highlighting in this letter. Results of a recent survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) indicate that Mozambique has lost almost half of its elephants over the past five years, as part of a wave of poaching driven by red-hot demand for ivory from fast-growing Asian economies such as China and Vietnam. “The southern African nation’s elephant population fell to 10,300 from 20,000 five years ago, which is 48%…” WCS said in a statement.
That major decline in elephant numbers in Mozambique was also echoed by the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Mr. Celso Correia, at a signing ceremony for trans-boundary conservation cooperation between Mozambique and Tanzania in Maputo.
Sir, according to the minister, Mozambique’s conservation areas consist of seven (7) National Parks, 10 National Reserves, 17 controlled hunting areas and two Community Reserves. Of these, Niassa National Reserve was hardest hit, and the population has fallen from an estimated 12,000 in 2012 to an estimated 4,440 – 43% of all elephants seen in Niassa Reserve on this survey, were reported dead. In Quirimbas National Park, the current elephant population is small, just over 600 animals, but there is significant poaching, with 45% of all elephants seen on the survey also said to be dead.
The Tete area, and Limpopo National Park and surrounding – Mozambique’s second and third largest elephant populations – have seen a 20% decline in each site. In Tete 1,600 elephants remain and in Limpopo National Park and the areas to the south, 1,100 elephants remain. However, poaching is occurring in both of these populations with 290 carcasses in Tete, and 230 in Limpopo National Park and the area to the south.
The magnitude of the damage is extensive. Countries that are already practicing sport hunting can bear witness and in the wake of this discovery, some are changing direction.
For example, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia T. Masebo, announced in December, 2012, that specific hunting licenses would be suspended indefinitely as they had “been abused to the extent they threatened the country’s animal populations.” In addition, by January 2013 the Zambian government put laws into effect that banned all lion and leopard hunting, citing that these populations had declined in recent years.
Botswana took a similar pro-conservation stance as President Ian Khama pledged that, “The shooting of wild game for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to reserve the local fauna. And Botswana has instituted a countrywide ban on sport hunting that took effect on January 1, 2015.
The Way Forward
We do believe very strongly that we are in the wake of a crisis that has gripped our continent, more so the African Rangeland countries. Poachers have decimated our herds, and Africa is no longer teeming with wildlife. The world has been duped into believing that sport hunting will aid conservation in Africa. It will not.
Aside from gaining Mozambique huge disrepute, it will go against the very fiber of what we, Africans are trying so hard to achieve – the protection and true management of our natural resources and in the bigger picture, our national heritage.
It is disheartening that all signs point to Africa’s prized wild animals’ fate being sealed by a hunter’s bullet. Trophy hunters often argue that Africa’s wildlife is worth the thousands of US dollars pumped into conservation for their death. But imagine if a single tourist came to the region and spent the same amount of money shooting our wildlife with a camera and not a gun; the legacy of these animals would be ongoing, and the number of tourists that would spend money in the region, just to come and see them and their subsequent offspring would be exponential compared to that one ‘hunter tourist’ who came and shot a lion, elephant or even a rhino for some dollars.
Moreover, it is equally unethical to use two sets of measures for poachers those who shoot a wild animal for financial gain are arrested or shot, and for a wealthy legal hunter who can pay a fortune for the pleasure to kill it, and is congratulated instead. In both cases, a dead endangered animal is the end product. This sport hunting is cruel, ill-timed, and has to be condemned.
We firmly believe that, we are all protectors of life; we are meant to ensure animals are treated humanely, not because we are rangers and scouts, but because it is our God-instructed duty. Personally, as ANAW and together with her network partners across Africa, we believe that we must only take that which is sustainable and in a way that will not bring harm to the delicate balance of nature. This is our way, the way of true Africa. Unless the illegal and inhumane slaughter of all species is halted, we will likely see these magnificent endangered animals disappear from the wild in the next several decades.
We therefore implore your government through your office, to take a bold stand for wildlife conservation today as an example to the Mozambique people and to the continent; and reconsider this grant. The repercussions of such a move will be felt and seen for years to come.
Looking forward to you kind response.