WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) announced they are petitioning the Obama Administration to impose trade sanctions against Mozambique in response to rampant poaching. Since 2010, Mozambican nationals have slaughtered up to 1,862 rhinos in South Africa, as well as thousands of elephants in Tanzania and Mozambique.
President Obama is authorized under the Pele Amendment to the U.S. Fishermen’s Protective Act to enact trade sanctions against any nation certified to be undermining an international conservation agreement.
EIA and IRF filed a petition under the Pelly Amendment to certify that Mozambique has been in constant violation of international rhino and elephant regulations for many years through ongoing illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory. Poaching by Mozambicans undermines the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and prevent international trade that threatens species extinction.
“President Obama’s Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, signed just one year ago, is being directly undercut by the actions of the Mozambique government and Mozambican nationals, who are at the center of rhino and elephant poaching in South Africa and Mozambique,” said Allan Thornton, president of EIA, a nonprofit environmental group based in Washington, D.C. and London. “Trade sanctions are urgently needed to persuade the government of Mozambique to enact a comprehensive crackdown on the poaching gangs and the criminal syndicates that arm and fund the poachers.”
Rhino poaching in South Africa has soared in recent years with over 1,000 rhinos poached in 2013 for their horns. Mozambican poachers are thought to be involved in 80 to 90 percent of rhino poaching incidents in the Kruger-Limpopo National Parks. Mozambique police and military have been implicated in the poaching with their uniforms and weapons discovered in poachers’ camps. Despite 300 Mozambican poachers having been killed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park in recent years, the pace of rhino poaching shows no sign of declining.
“Many of the crime syndicates have moved their base of operation from South Africa to Mozambique, where they are able to act with impunity,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF, a nonprofit rhino conservation organization with field programs around the world. “Mozambican poachers are highly organized and are slaughtering rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, while the Mozambican government turns a blind eye.”
Elephants are being slaughtered at a rate of up to 50,000 per year in Africa. Elephant populations in Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve dropped from more than 20,000 in 2009 to 9,000 in 2013. Poaching is so severe in Niassa that it is losing elephants at the rate of three to four a day, and poachers are now targeting elephants in Tanzania and South Africa.
“The EIA and IRF petition provides the U.S. government with the evidence it needs to act urgently and decisively to impose strong measures against Mozambique,” Thornton said. “We applaud the United States for being a world leader in fighting wildlife crime.”
QUICK FACTS ABOUT RHINO AND ELEPHANT POACHING
• Demand for rhino horn has skyrocketed in Asia, particularly Vietnam, due to the false claim that rhino horn cures cancer. Rhino horn has also become a luxury status symbol among wealthy consumers who believe it to be a hangover cure.
• Rhino horn is the focus of poaching activities in the south along the Kruger-Limpopo Transfrontier Park while elephant tusks are the primary illicit target in the Niassa reserve in northern Mozambique.
• In March 2013 alone, South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park, a rhino poaching hot spot, recorded 72 known cross-border armed incursions from Mozambique.
• Mozambicans constitute the highest number of foreign arrests for poaching in South Africa, according to CITES.
• South African wildlife organizations report that anywhere from 10 to 15 hunting parties are present inside Kruger on any given night.
• Elephants are currently being slaughtered on a massive scale across the African continent. Scientists believe that as few as 250,000-300,000 African elephants are now left in the wild.
• Markets primarily in China, Japan, Thailand, Europe and the United States fuel the demand for poached ivory. The United States recently implemented a domestic ivory trade ban. Similar measures in China, Japan and Europe should be adopted on an urgent basis in response to the poaching crisis.
• International trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory is banned under CITES, which prohibits trade in these species for commercial purposes.