WCS: The Escape of Elephant Poaching Suspects from Niassa National Reserve Only Sparks More Determination to Stop the Criminals

Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique, Nov. 7, 2014
The following statement was released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society concerning the escape of two suspected elephant poachers. The poachers escaped on Oct. 27th from a Mecula police station. The suspects, arrested with guns and ammunition in their possession, were to be prosecuted under a stricter law which would lead to jail time.

WCS President and CEO Cristian Samper:
"After recently returning from Niassa and seeing first-hand the slaughter of elephants by poachers, we are tremendously disappointed that the suspects escaped but we are not discouraged. We know the Mozambican Government is increasing all its efforts -- in the field and in the courts -- to stop the poaching. We also know that Mozambican officials are not alone in their efforts. Other governments, including the United States and the United Kingdom are joining forces. This is a global crisis and needs a global response."

Alastair Nelson, Director of the WCS Mozambique Program:
"It was pivotal when these suspects were apprehended on Sept. 22. Their names have been linked with elephant poaching in Niassa and the Selous for years - they move freely across the border with Tanzania. They were arrested by a joint operation of partners including Niassa Reserve scouts from WCS and the Ministry of Tourism, supported by the new branch of the Mozambican police in charge of environmental crimes, and with central involvement of scouts from the Luwire tourism concession. As co-managers of the reserve with the government, WCS will continue to work with all our partners to stop the killing of elephants with joint operations to arrest poachers. This escape is a frustration, but it serves to make us, and all of our partners, more determined. The new law in Mozambique is a tremendous step forward and we mustn't lose momentum. True to the spirit of the rule of law an investigation into the events of the night of the escape must be held, and any irregularities must be punished. The elephant poaching crisis in Mozambique is dire. We are losing five elephants per day across the country to organized criminals who are negatively impacting Mozambique's development, and governance and security across the whole region. We are here to work with all partners and support the Government of Mozambique in stopping this tragic loss of life, of development potential, and of national heritage."

Background on Niassa National Reserve:
Spanning 42,000 square kilometers (more than 16,000 square miles), Niassa National Reserve is twice as large as world famous Kruger Park in South Africa and approximately the same size as the country of Denmark. It is home to lions, leopards, buffalo, sable antelope, African wild dogs and (in 2011) some 12,000 elephants, Mozambique's largest population of elephants and one of the largest remaining populations in Africa.

STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world's oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS ; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia Follow: @thewcs.