Once Catastrophic, Elephant Poaching at Niassa Reserve Drops to Zero

©. Elephants in Niassa Reserve / Courtesy of WCS Mozambique

Before 2015, the Mozambique reserve lost many thousands of elephants due to rampant poaching – now they’ve just had a full year without any illegal deaths.

From 2009 to 2014, the Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique endured a spate of horrific elephant poaching that cut the population from 12,000 to around 3,675. But after a comprehensive array of anti-poaching strategies, the killings dropped to some 100 a year between 2015 and 2017.

Now, it has been announced that the last illegally killed elephant was reported on May 17, 2018 – meaning a full year has passed without any poaching deaths, according to Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

The sprawling 17,000-square-mile reserve is one of Africa’s largest and wildest landscapes, and accounts for almost 30 percent of Mozambique’s conservation areas. It’s size means that it’s one of Africa’s few remaining areas able to support a large elephant population; by some accounts, the landscape could support as many as 20,000 individuals.

So what is the secret to this tremendous success? Well, it takes a village ... and helicopters and a Cessna, for starters.


© Cessna aircraft / Courtesy of WCS Mozambique

WCS explains that the success against poaching is due to “a collaborative effort with the Government of Mozambique and concession operators in the park, combined with deployment of a special police rapid intervention unit; an increased aviation program providing surveillance and the deployment of a helicopter and Cessna aircraft; and tough new sentencing of poachers.”

park guards

© Park Guards, Niassa Reserve / Courtesy of WCS Mozambique

Surely eliminating poaching in such an expansive wilderness is not easy, making this some of the most encouraging elephant news I have heard in a long time. With Niassa’s rare, large remaining swaths of intact miombo woodland, the reserve is home to some of Mozambique’s most significant populations of wildlife, including elephant, lion, leopard, wild dog, sable, kudu, wildebeest and zebra.

And hopefully in time, those numbers of elephants will be back where they belong – thriving, robust, and poaching-free.


© Elephants at Niassa Reserve / Courtesy of WCS Mozambique