A day out at Pemba Bay, Mozambique

Due to weak laws and severe poverty, buying ivory is too easy in Mozambique, says conservationist Sophie Scott Beissel.

Share

Buying ivory is too easy in Mozambique, especially at ports like Pemba. At the beach front of the coastal town, two worlds coexist: locals live in mud houses built on rubbish heaps whilst tourists stay in the large five-star Pemba Beach Hotel. This town, which lies within a region of severe poverty, has been the recent site of a huge off-shore gas discovery.  The divide is set to grow even deeper as billions of dollars are being ploughed into the area.

At Wimbe beach, a tourist hub along the coast, in the open sided bamboo shop that sells all sorts of shells, necklaces and tourist trinkets, I saw a Chinese man sitting surrounded by five sellers who were frantically unpacking their rucksacks.  The man was haggling for quantities of what looked like ivory artefacts. Then one seller produced two large carved tusks – ivory for sure.

I ran back to the car to grab my camera, and as I approached they hid the tusks until I played the dumb but rich tourist: “my husband wants to buy me something ivory for my birthday” I said. I was shown one of the tusks, carved into a procession of elephants – ironically.  The 2-kg tusk was offered to me for the cut-down price of $200. 

It was extraordinary to hold this tusk. As a conservationist, I couldn’t help but imagine the animal left lying on the forest floor with its face hacked open, only kilometres from where I work trying to safeguard elephants and their habitat. This is only the tip of the iceberg, this ivory is likely to be scraps; the majority is shipped to Asia from Pemba's internationally connected port.

I was left reflecting just how we continue to provide sustainable incentives to our local community, the Makua tribe, with whom we work to prevent poaching. Together we protect one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, coastal forest, at Mareja reserve in north-eastern Mozambique. But when offered large quantities of ready cash for a dead elephant, we find even our most loyal workers turning to poaching, and seeking elephant tusks as if they were gold. Ivory can fetch as much as $800 (£500) per kilo. For local communities, this is a fortune. 

Mozambique has very weak laws relating to elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade, it is only considered an administrative offence and the fines are negligible. Trying to protect elephants is a dangerous and heart-breaking mission.  Unless governments strengthen their laws and consumers stop buying ivory now, today, the trumpeting, intelligent, evolutionary giant, the African elephant, will soon be extinct at Mareja, and our planet severely diminished.

Sophie Scott Beissel is a conservationist and Interpretation Consultant, she works between Mareja Community Conservation Project in Northern Mozambique and UK.
 

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Left in limbo: Refugee children in a processing centre in Brownsville, Texas  

Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Rupert Cornwell
Harman has said her gender affected her employment  

Gordon Brown could have had a woman as deputy PM. He bottled it

Joan Smith
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?