JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Mozambique destroyed a large stockpile of confiscated ivory and rhino horn on Monday in an effort to curb severe poaching, the government said.
The event shows "the commitment of the government that there's zero tolerance for poaching of our natural resources," Samiro Magane, a conservation official in Mozambique, said in a telephone interview.
A total of 5,370 pounds (2.4 metric tons) of ivory and dozens of rhino horn pieces weighing a total of nearly 440 pounds (200 kilograms) were destroyed, said the Wildlife Conservation Society, a New York-based group that co-manages Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique.
Conservationists say the number of elephants in Mozambique has dropped nearly 50 percent to about 10,300 in the last five years because of poaching. Mozambique's rhino population has been virtually wiped out, and authorities are investigating whether the rhino horns confiscated in Mozambique came from rhinos that were killed in neighboring South Africa.
Mozambique can make progress against poaching with more support for a new environmental police force as well as efforts to prosecute suspected poachers, said Alastair Nelson, head of the Mozambique program of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
In May, several police officers in Mozambique were arrested for allegedly stealing rhino horns that were part of a confiscated stash that they were supposed to be guarding.
The demand for rhino horn in parts of Asia is based partly on a belief that it has medicinal benefits, though there is no scientific evidence to support it.