The elephants at one of Africa's largest wildlife preserves have gone a year without being killed by poachers. The Niassa reserve in Mozambique had fewer than 2,000 elephants remaining one year ago due to elephants being hunted; an estimated 4,000 elephants are now in the reserve.
Policies enacted by the Mozambique government have allowed the elephant population to drastically rebound. This includes the introduction of a dedicated police force, more assertive patrolling and response by air, according to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the reserve with Mozambique's government and several other partners.
"It is a remarkable achievement," Wildlife Conservation Society country director James Bampton told The Associated Press.
"The new rapid intervention police force is an elite unit that is better-armed than the reserve's normal rangers," Bampton said, adding that no "bad incidents" were reported in Niassa.
This quick intervention strategy allows the force to rapidly arrest any suspected poachers. "Just being caught with a firearm is considered intent to illegal hunting," with a maximum prison sentence of 16 years, Bampton said.
The last time an elephant in the Niassa reserve was recorded killed by a poacher was May 17, 2018.
This change of strategy by the Mozambique government and a decline of poaching is giving elephants a fighting chance to continue to survive in this region.
Experts say the current rate of annual elephant losses still exceeds the birth rate, however and the encroachment of human settlements is reducing the animals' range. Africa's elephant population has plummeted from an estimated several million around 1900 to at least 415,000, according to surveys in recent years.