In Mozambique, it seems to be game over for rhinos. A wildlife warden in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier park—the only place where rhinos were still surviving in the southern African country—told AP that the last of the animals have been killed by poachers.
Elephants also could become extinct in Mozambique soon, the warden, Antonio Abacar, warns. He says game rangers have been aiding poachers, and 30 of the park’s 100 rangers will appear in court soon. “We caught some of them red-handed while directing poachers to a rhino area,” Abacar says.
In Asia, the hacked-off horns can fetch a price equivalent to more than their weight in gold. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that the ground horns have curative properties. (Science holds that they do not.) In China and Vietnam, the horns are also used as decorations or as aphrodisiacs.
Mozambique’s rhinos have been living on the edge of extinction for more than a century, when big game hunters first arrived and decimated populations. Conservationists there have painstakingly built the population up over the last few years, but poachers—who often have significantly more funding, manpower and resources than wildlife wardens—seem to have finally stamped out the country’s rhinos for good. Mozambique’s conservation director remains hopeful that a few stray rhinos may still exist, however.
For many wildlife wardens, the lure of money and the lack of legal deterrents, often proves too much to resist. AP describes the typical case:
A game ranger arrested for helping poachers in Mozambique’s northern Niassa Game Reserve said on Mozambican Television TVM last week that he was paid about $80 to direct poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. Game rangers are paid between $64 and $96 a month, and though the guilty ones will lose their jobs, the courts serve as little deterrent to the poachers: Killing wildlife and trading in illegal rhino horn and elephant tusks are only misdemeanors in Mozambique.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mozambique’s government is still working on legislation first drafted in 2009 which would impose mandatory prison sentences for people caught shooting wildlife.
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