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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The traditional Boxing Day hunt in Lacock  

For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all