Poaching Undermines Wildlife-based land Uses in Mozambique

A new TRAFFIC study, led by Peter Lindsey and Carlos Bento, implores the Mozambican government to review it's hunting coutada areas and zone it accordingly to prevent further human incursion and inevitable human-animal conflict, as well as illegal hunting that will impact wildlife population numbers in these areas.

The study finds that illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade have resulted in a major decline in wildlife populations in Central Mozambique, significantly undermining potential for viable wildlife-based land uses and resulting in the loss of a traditional source of protein for local communities.

The study of Coutada 9, a safari hunting area, found that wildlife populations in the 4,450 square km protected area in Manica province are currently less than 10 percent of what the area could support, with several species, including rhinoceroses, roan antelopes and African wild dogs locally extirpated through illegal hunting.

According to the study, significantly reducing such illegal hunting and allowing wildlife populations to recover would allow the generation of significant economic benefits through trophy hunting and potentially ecotourism. In addition, an additional 86 tonnes of wild meat could be generated from Coutada 9, if hunting was limited to regulated harvesting based on a quota system.

"The implications for the food security of local people are obvious, while restoring wildlife populations would have clear conservation benefits too," said David Newton, director of TRAFFIC's East and Southern Africa programme.

According to the report, Illegal hunting and the bushmeat trade in Central Mozambique, illegal hunting over time is now costing local communities an estimated R2.5 million per year in lost opportunities, while the current annual cost of anti-poaching measures in Coutada 9 amounts to R490 000.

"Illegal hunting is an extremely inefficient use of wildlife resources because it fails to capture the value of wildlife achievable through alternative forms of use such as trophy hunting and ecotourism," said Peter Lindsey, author of the new study.

According to the study, illegal hunting is most commonly practiced with the use of dogs and muzzle-loaders, and large gin traps made from car leaf springs, while those carrying out the hunting are typically local poor, food-insecure men in their 30s and 40s. Income generated from hunting is most commonly used to buy maize for consumption, and clothes.

Bushmeat is most commonly sold to communities and in urban centres within 50 km of Coutada 9, though some buyers come from up to 230 km away. According to Lindsey most (94.7 percent) of the hunters hunt just for meat to eat or sell, the remainder sometimes hunt to obtain body parts for traditional medicine (3.9 percent), to obtain skins (2.1 percent), or lion hearts (1.0 percent).

Typical buyers of bushmeat are those with a cash income, such as businesspeople or teachers.

However, according to the report "government officials and police are known to purchase bushmeat despite the clear illegality of the source, creating a conflict of interest which may discourage effective policing of illegal hunting."

The report makes a number of recommendations, particularly aimed at both government and the hunting operators who lease coutadas in Central Mozambique. The Mozambique government is advised to conduct land-use planning and zoning in coutadas to provide for a rational alignment of wildlife areas and that used for settlement and agriculture. In addition, efforts are needed to re-stock the depleted coutada hunting blocks with wildlife to allow for viable wildlife-based land uses.

There is also a need for more effective enforcement of laws pertaining to illegal hunting. Hunting operators who lease coutadas should be "encouraged to invest in the development of sustainable and mutually profitable projects involving communities, to provide alternative livelihood options for illegal hunters," and "required to provide a sustainable legal supply of affordable game meat to communities, as an alternative to illegally sourced supply," says the report.

"Above all, this study amply demonstrates that planned, sustainable use of the wildlife resources available in Central Mozambique makes perfect sense from a human welfare, conservation and economic perspective, but that several changes are needed to achieve these aims," said Newton.

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