Tacit acknowledgement that Mozambicans are prime killers of rhino in particularly the Kruger National Park came from former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.
Speaking in Maputo he said armed rangers in Kruger have killed nearly 500 mostly young Mozambicans for poaching activities over the past five years. Two years ago Chissano said Mozambicans were responsible for 70% of the national rhino kill in South Africa. His statement was supported by Department of Environment Affairs statistics which then showed 68% of arrests in connection with rhino poaching were Mozambicans.
Minister Edna Molewa’s department has never released information on poachers and suspected poachers killed, either by SANParks rangers or police. Until the beginning of this year figures on rhino kills and arrests were released monthly but this has been stopped with information, to date, only made available three times in the first nine months of 2015.
Poaching gangs are usually heavily armed and rangers in Kruger, which shares a porous, 350km border with Mozambique, are allowed to open fire if threatened with lethal force.
Officials from the SANParks referred Reuters queries on Chissano’s comments to police, who could not confirm the number of the poachers killed.
A spokesman at Kruger said data was not available on the number of poaching-related arrests made in the past year. The national parks agency says a majority of suspected poachers arrested are Mozambicans but gave no figures.
Chissano, whose foundation is involved in conservation, said 82 Mozambican poachers had been killed in Kruger so far this year, compared with 106 during the whole of 2014 without citing the source for the figures.
“It worries me that quite a large number of Mozambicans are killed in Kruger Park in poaching activities,” the former president said. “Each of these Mozambicans dead means more poverty for his family, because they can no longer count on him to fight for better living conditions”.
Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest countries, which drives some Mozambicans to try lucrative poaching in Kruger, but intelligence indicates at least some South African villages near the park have also been involved in illegal poaching.
In June last year, Mozambique approved a new law introducing tougher penalties against convicted poachers, including heavy fines and prison sentences of up to 12 years.