AIM/allAfrica

Maputo — Poaching rhinoceros in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is lethal – and not only for the rhinos.

On Friday, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano released statistics showing that, over the past five and a half years, almost 500 Mozambicans, intercepted while poaching in the park have been shot dead by South African game rangers and security forces.

Speaking at the launch of ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the Joaquim Chissano Foundation, the former President called for greater effort to halt the recruitment of young Mozambicans by the organized crime networks which are behind the rhino poaching.

According to a report in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Chissano said that in 2010 wardens shot dead 54 Mozambicans in the Kruger Park. The following year the number rose to 66, and then fell back slightly to 58 in 2012. In 2013, 106 Mozambican poachers were killed in the park, and in 2014 the figure was 110. This year might set a record – in the first six months 82 Mozambicans were intercepted and killed.

Thus between January 2010 and June 2015, 476 Mozambican poachers have met their deaths in the Kruger National Park.

“I am very concerned at the large number of Mozambicans killed in the Kruger Park while poaching”, said Chissano. “Each one of these dead Mozambicans means more poverty for his family, since they can no longer rely on him in the struggle for better living standards”.

Cissano said that his Foundation has begun to identify projects in the communities where the poachers are recruited. Such projects could offer employment to young Mozambicans as a safe alternative to poaching.

Chissano said that, despite facing enormous difficulties, the Foundation has been able to build water sources in some poor rural communities, distribute school material and send young Mozambicans to an international holiday camp in Ukraine (before the outbreak of the current war against Russian-backed separatists).

He added that the Foundation has been involved in mediating conflicts in several countries including Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has also tried to find a solution to the border conflict over Lake Niassa between Malawi and Tanzania.

As part of the ceremonies, the foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with Radio Mozambique to publicise activities against poaching, and to discourage Mozambicans from taking part in this criminal practice. A second memorandum was signed with the singer Mr Bow, who launched a disc on Friday, using music to denounce poaching.