Mozambique Completes Elephant Collaring Effort

26 November 2015 | Wildlife Conservation Society News Release

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE – A team of conservationists from WCS, the Government of Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and other partners, completed a five-day effort to fit tracking collars on 20 elephants in the Niassa Reserve, the most important protected area in the country.

A total of 17 females and 3 males were collared. The focus was on females in order to track the movements of family groups. The elephants are now being tracked by conservationists in an effort to protect wildlife from poaching.

Elephant collaring is a very useful tool in establishing and managing Intensive Protection Zones – special areas being established to conserve key elephant sub-populations that represent a critical reproductive nucleus for the survival and recovery of the Reserve’s elephants. The collars are fitted with satellite GPS transmitters to better understand elephant behavior and use of the landscape. In addition, they provide real-time position data for the elephant herds, which facilitates close monitoring. This location data in combination with aerial surveillance and ground patrols will enable targeted protection efforts and facilitates effective and rapid responses.

Niassa staff are developing intelligence gathering capacity on poaching and trafficking networks, which targets major elephant poachers and traffickers operating in the landscape. In addition, the Reserve will use the elephant collaring data to inform multi-sectoral land use planning, which will help to secure sufficient habitat and connectivity to protect elephants in the long-term.

Niassa National Reserve is co-managed by the Government of Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), working in partnership with the Reserve’s tourist operators and communities. The Reserve hosts Mozambique’s biggest elephant population, with an estimated population in late 2014 of 4,441, which represents 43 percent of the national total.

Alastair Nelson, WCS Country Director, Mozambique, said: “Niassa Reserve is the size of Denmark, so we have to focus our efforts if we are to address elephant poaching, artisanal mining and logging that are threatening this pristine wilderness. Collaring these elephants provides one focus for our protection efforts; aerial surveillance supports this and also helps us address illegal mining and logging.”

Dr. Bartolomeu Soto, Director-General of Mozambique’s National Authority for Conservation Areas (ANAC) said: “This collaring operation is a critical part of our protection strategy to address poaching in Niassa Reserve. ANAC and the Government of Mozambique are committed to this battle and we will work with WCS and all other partners to secure our wildlife.”

During the operation fifteen elephants carcasses from two family groups were counted, which had recently been killed for their ivory. At one location, the ivory remained on one elephant, indicating that the arrival of the helicopter in the area led the poachers to flee the scene before they had time to complete the laborious task of removing the ivory. This further stresses the need for the collaring to provide real-time information on elephant groups so that authorities can respond quickly and stop these killings happening.

The current elephant-poaching crisis has had a major impact, with an estimated 63 percent of Niassa National Reserve’s elephants killed in the three-year period between the aerial counts of October 2011 and October 2014. In response, the Reserve management is in the process of establishing Intensive Protection Zones (IPZ) to protect key elephant sub-populations that represent a critical reproductive nucleus for the survival and recovery of Niassa’s elephants.

The collaring team consisted of wildlife vets Dr. Carlos Lopes Pereira and Dr. Mike Kock who had responsibility for darting and collaring the elephants from a helicopter flown by Benjamin Osmers. Falk Grossmann, Niassa Reserve’s Aviation Manager and Elephant Protection Coordinator, flew the Reserve’s Cessna 182 with NNR scouts onboard as observers to help locate the elephant groups. Carlos Lopes Pereira, who led the veterinary and helicopter team, is Mozambique’s most experienced wildlife vet and works as both Head of Law Enforcement at ANAC and as Technical Director for the WCS Mozambique Program. Mike Kock, an experienced wildlife vet has worked for many years with WCS on wildlife-human health interventions across Africa.

The collaring is supported by WCS, USAID, Wildcat Foundation and USFWS. This work is additionally supported through the Alliance for Ecosystem Conservation Systems, Markets and Tourism (ECO-SMART) launched earlier in the year. A key component of this USAID/Mozambique funded initiative is to provide core support to the Niassa Reserve management in partnership with three of Niassa Reserve’s tourism operators and potential new partners in future to be a model for promoting sustainable development for local communities, regional economies, and overall governance in Mozambique through biodiversity conservation.

The ECO-SMART initiative seeks to develop a strong platform for effective protected area management, which this year has established Reserve-wide communication systems, a conservation aviation unit, strategic development of protection infrastructure, procurement of vehicles and other equipment for ground operations, building the Reserve team, and strengthening partnerships with the Reserve operators and other law enforcement bodies in the Reserve, including the newly deployed environmental police force.

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CONTACT:
MARY DIXON: (1-347-840-1242; mdixon@wcs.org)
STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org


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