HUFFINGTON POST

In Show Of Strength Against Poaching, Mozambique Burns Illicit Rhino Horn And Elephant Ivory

A mural painted on a suburban wall in Johannesburg, South Africa calls for the halt to rhino poaching, Monday, July 21, 2014.
A mural painted on a suburban wall in Johannesburg, South Africa calls for the halt to rhino poaching, Monday, July 21, 2014. Officials at Kruger park, South Africa's flagship wildlife reserve, are considering a plan to move some rhinos out of the park in an attempt to protect them from poachers. A spokesman said that no decision has been made on the plan adding that the idea would be to "spread the risk" to other reserves because the Kruger park is heavily targeted by poachers, many of whom cross from neighboring Mozambique. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Mozambique doesn't have any living rhinos left, but the country is still a hub for the illicit, and highly lucrative, trade in endangered animal parts.

In an increasingly common show of force against poachers, wildlife officials destroyed more than 425 pounds of rhino horn and two tons of elephant ivory on Monday. The cache was seized in Maputo, Mozambique's capital, earlier this year in what The Guardian calls the biggest haul of rhino horn ever.

The goods represent more than 200 animals that were killed for their horns and tusks, according to Agence France-Presse. Based on conservative estimates, the total value of the burned material on the black market hovers close to $17 million.

"Today sends a signal. Mozambique will not tolerate poachers, traffickers and the organized criminals which employ and pay them to kill our wildlife and threaten our communities," Celso Correia, Mozambique's minister of land, environment and rural development, said during the burning. "The ivory trade is driven by those beyond our shores but it is our citizens and our neighbors who pay the cost."

Despite the victory against wildlife crime, Mozambique is still struggling to keep up with highly armed criminal gangs that can make millions off a single poaching venture. Rhino horn can fetch upwards of $65,000 a kilogram -- more than its weight in gold -- and the price of elephant ivory tripled between 2010 and 2014.

Poachers in South Africa, home to most of the world's remaining rhinos, are already on track to kill more of the animals this year than ever before, surpassing last year's record slaughter of 1,215. The horns often make their way to some Asian countries, where they're ground into a powder many think can cure everything from cancer to infertility. But rhino horn is actually made of the same material as human fingernails and holds no medical properties whatsoever.

A startling study released in May found nearly half of all elephants in Mozambique were slaughtered over the past five years, a statistic conservationists called highly "depressing."

Ivory is still in high demand in parts of China, where trinkets carved from the material are seen as status symbols. Growing demand from a rising middle and upper class have strained elephant populations across the African continent, and an expert told The New York Times in a 2013 piece that “China is clearly driving the illegal ivory trade more than any other nation on earth."

The country has made strides to combat the poaching epidemic in recent months, promising to phase out its currently legal domestic market for ivory sales. Nearly 1,500 pounds of confiscated ivory was crushed in Beijing in May as a sign of the government's commitment to conservation.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

  • In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 tracking rangers with their dog, re-enact how they work, in conjunction wit
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell-File
    In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 tracking rangers with their dog, re-enact how they work, in conjunction with a helicopter, to track down rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park, near Skukuza, South Africa. Anti-poaching dogs are trained to follow the spoor of armed poachers in South Africa's besieged wildlife parks.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog is edged on to attack a "rhino poacher" left, in a simulation exercise sho
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog is edged on to attack a "rhino poacher" left, in a simulation exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog and its handler are photographed during a simulated training at an academy
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog and its handler are photographed during a simulated training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. Dogs are a small part of an increasingly desperate struggle to curb poaching in Africa, where tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered in recent years to meet a surging appetite for ivory in Asia, primarily China.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog chases down a "rhino poacher" left, in water, in a simulation exercise sho
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog chases down a "rhino poacher" left, in water, in a simulation exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog chases down a "rhino poacher" left, in water, in a simulation exercise sho
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog chases down a "rhino poacher" left, in water, in a simulation exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 dogs exit a helicopter with their handlers to chase a "rhino poacher" front in w
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 dogs exit a helicopter with their handlers to chase a "rhino poacher" front in water, in a simulation exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 attack dogs and their handlers apprehend a "rhino poacher" center, after alighti
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 attack dogs and their handlers apprehend a "rhino poacher" center, after alighting from a helicopter into water, in a simulation exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014 a handler and his dog abseil from a helicopter, in a simulated exercise showing t
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014 a handler and his dog abseil from a helicopter, in a simulated exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014 a handler and his dog abseil from a helicopter, in a simulated exercise showing t
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26 2014 a handler and his dog abseil from a helicopter, in a simulated exercise showing training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. The course prepares canine units to find firearms or contraband, track suspects in the undergrowth and abseil in harnesses from helicopters in pursuit of poachers. Dogs and handlers learn to trust each other and fine tune a relationship balancing control and aggression.
  • In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 tracking rangers with their dog, re-enact how they work, in conjunction wit
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell-File
    In this file photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 tracking rangers with their dog, re-enact how they work, in conjunction with a helicopter, to track down rhino poachers in the Kruger National Park, near Skukuza, South Africa. Anti-poaching dogs are trained to follow the spoor of armed poachers in South Africa's besieged wildlife parks.
  • In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog and its handler are photographed during training at an academy run by the
    AP Photo/Denis Farrell
    In this photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 a dog and its handler are photographed during training at an academy run by the Paramount Group, near Rustenburg, South Africa. Dogs are a small part of an increasingly desperate struggle to curb poaching in Africa, where tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered in recent years to meet a surging appetite for ivory in Asia, primarily China. In South Africa, poachers have killed more than 1,000 rhinos this year, surpassing the 2013 record.
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