EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by: Andy Vaughan for The Guardian
Mozambique burned the world’s largest ever seizure of rhino horn on Monday in what ministers and officials said was a demonstration of their commitment to tackle poaching.
The largely symbolic destruction of 193.5kg of horn and 2,434.6kg of ivory came as neighbouring Zimbabwe confirmed that around 20 elephants captured from a national park had been exported to China despite pleas from conservationists to release them.
Mozambique has become a hotspot for Africa’s wildlife poaching crisis, losing nearly half its elephants to the illegal trade in the past five years. It has no rhino of its own, but is known as a hub used by the trade to export horn from South Africa – where a record 1,215 rhino were killed last year – to markets in Asia.
In May, police seized 1,160kg of ivory and 124kg of rhino horn, the biggest haul of rhino horn anywhere. But 12 of the 65 horns were later stolen from a police warehouse, leading to the arrests of four policemen.
The burning of the seizure and the entire Maputo stockpile in the capital today follows Mozambique signing a ‘London Declaration’ backed by Prince Charles to tackle the wildlife trade, which is worth up to £12bn globally.
“Today sends a signal,” said Celso Correia, minister for land, environment and rural development. “Mozambique will not tolerate poachers, traffickers and the organised criminals that employ them to kill our wildlife and threaten our communities.”
Dr Bartolomeu Soto, director general of the National Conservation Areas Authority, said that, “This event demonstrates the republic’s commitment to protecting its natural resources, and its zero-tolerance to poaching, trafficking and to the organised criminals behind this.”
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which helped fund the event, said Mozambique was making a stand. “Recent efforts show real commitment to tackle wildlife crime, associated corruption and organised crime gangs,” said Alastair Nelson, WCS’s country director for Mozambique.
However, WWF said that while the burn sent a positive signal of Mozambique’s determination to tackle wildlife crime, it was concerned that evidence connected to the thefts had been destroyed.
Heather Sohl, chief advisor of species at WWF UK, said: “WWF is concerned about Mozambique’s sudden decision to destroy this sizeable haul of ivory and rhino horns, because it is likely that critical evidence has been destroyed.”
Wildlife trade monitors, Traffic, raised similar concerns regarding the ivory thefts and potential loss of evidence. “The apparent destruction of evidence in ongoing cases raises obvious concerns over how the legal process will now be properly followed in Mozambique,” said the organisation’s Tom Milliken.
The event in Maputo on Monday follows several other similar destructions of seized ivory, most recently the crushing of 907kg of ivory in Times Square, New York.
To find out more about the ivory trade debate, read: The Burning Question