Tiaan and the Zinave rangers have set off at night on patrol to try to find, disturb and hopefully arrest illegal loggers who are part of sophisticated logging syndicates that continually breach the park boundaries in their search for trees. The fact that these syndicates are operated by wealthy people from outside the park boundaries makes operations trickier, as the loggers themselves are not the real culprits here. However, as illegal logging takes a heavy toll on mature trees from key species that are integral to the health of the ecosystem, it is imperative that this practice is eradicated.
The rangers leave under cover of night, hoping to arrest the illegal loggers. Covering many kilometres over the rough terrain in Zinave National Park, they pick up vehicle tracks in the sand: evidence of the loggers. Following these, they eventually come upon a tractor and driver in the loggers’ camp. Unable to outrun the rangers’ trucks, the driver is captured and agrees to lead the counter-poaching team to the other loggers.
Following the tractor deep into the bush is slow going. Hours later, approaching the limits of Zinave, the rangers come upon a sad sight: 50 freshly cut logs from Mopane trees.
The operation results in the disruption of illegal activities: the prevention of a truck-full of logs leaving the reserve, the seizure of a second tractor, a chainsaw and various other materials, and the destruction of another camp used by illegal loggers.
The dedicated rangers in Zinave National Park, which is co-managed by Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas and Peace Parks Foundation, are successfully impeding the operations of sophisticated illegal logging syndicates’ intent on exploiting the natural resources of the park for commercial gain. This operation is one of two challenging missions which led to the discovery and seizure of a variety of equipment central to the destructive activities carried out by the loggers.
Not all illegal logging is driven by poverty, but the lack of income and access to critical resources most definitely exacerbates the practice. Peace Parks strives to empower these communities to either benefit from the sustainable use and development of commercial resources within the conservation areas, or be assisted to find alternative livelihoods in line with the fulfilment of their basic human rights.