The Mozambican government on Wednesday in Maputo signed an agreement with the Joaquim Chissano Foundation and the Peace Parks Foundation to fight wildlife crime.The partnership will support the development of dedicated anti-poaching operations in and around the Limpopo National Park (PNL) in the southern province of Gaza.The agreement follows on from a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April by the Mozambican and South African governments promoting joint action on the management and conservation of biodiversity, and aimed at stopping poaching, particularly of rhinos.Under Wednesday’s agreement, the Peace Parks Foundation will spend thirty million rand (about 2.8 million US dollars) and offer material support and assistance to anti-poaching activities.These funds come from a 15.4 million Euro donation from the Dutch and Swedish lotteries to the Peace Parks Foundation.According to a press release from the Peace Parks Foundation, wildlife crime is the fourth largest illegal activity in the world after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking, with an annual turnover of at least 19 billion US dollars.
The Foundation laments that poaching “is decimating Africa’s iconic species of elephant, rhino, lion and leopard and threatening the very existence of Africa’s protected areas where tourism is a major GDP contributor”.Its Chief Executive, Werner Myburgh, explained that “many of the actions will be taken jointly by Mozambique and South Africa. Wildlife crime is often transnational by nature and transfrontier conservation areas and agreements, such as these signed today, offer an important platform to counter the decimation of our protected species”.The project includes the updating of the communications technology used by rangers as well as shared communication across the border with South Africa. Rangers will also receive training, new equipment and improved working conditions.An essential part of the project involves giving support to the judicial system in Mozambique so that it can implement the stiff penalties provided for in the Conservation Areas Act.In April the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, passed a bill dramatically increasing the penalties for poaching, particularly of endangered species.The law proposes prison sentences of between eight and 12 years for people who kill, without a licence, any protected species, or who use banned fishing gear, such as explosives or toxic substances. The same penalty will apply to people who set forests or woodlands on fire (poachers often use fire to drive animals into the open).Anybody using illegal firearms or snares, even if they do not catch protected species, can be sentenced to two years imprisonment.In addition, those found guilty of the illegal exploitation, storage, transport or sale of protected species will be fined between 50 and 1,000 times the minimum monthly national wage in force in the public administration (at current exchange rates, that would be a fine of between 4,425 and 88,500 US dollars).Central to the project is the Joaquim Chissano Foundation’s Wildlife Preservation Initiative. This is developing research on policy formation in Mozambique as well as promoting the use of sniffer dogs along known trafficking routes.The PNL covers over 1.1 million hectares, and forms part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also includes the Kruger National Park in South Africa, and the Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe. Between them, the three parks cover a total area of 5.5 million hectares.The Peace Parks Foundation was established in 1997 by the then South African President Nelson Mandela, Anton Rupert, chair of the South African Branch of WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. It aims to promote Southern African Peace Parks (also known as transfrontier conservation areas) including the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.