Derek Littleton, Conservation Manager at Northern Mozambique’s Niassa National Reserve, on the desperate need for action
African nations face some of the planet’s toughest challenges. For example, despite contributing little to global warming, Mozambique suffered horrific destruction when Cyclone Idai tore through the country last month. At the same time, the country’s once-bountiful wildlife is under constant threat from poachers working for international organised crime syndicates.
Nearly half of Mozambique’s elephants were killed for their ivory in the five years up to 2015, a crisis that saw the population plummet from over 20,000 to an estimated 10,300. Within Mozambique’s largest national park–- the Niassa National Reserve – one of Africa’s last remaining unspoilt wildernesses, the crisis struck a bit later and harder. The elephant population declined massively from an estimated 13,000 to 3,000 by 2018.
Since then it has largely been down to the work of those dedicated individuals on the ground to protect elephants and the landscapes they depend on. Derek Littleton, Conservation Manager at the Luwire Wildlife Conservancy – the largest of Niassa’ s fifteen private concessions – has along with his loyal indigenous scouts, been on the front line of this fight. .
“Wildlife is my vocation,” smiles Littleton. “It is something that is worth fighting for. Niassa is one of the last big wildernesses we have left, but there are very few people who have been willing to fight for it.”
Niassa borders the southern Tanzanian border and at 42,000 square kilometres is twice the size of South Africa’s Kruger National Park and larger than the Netherlands and roughly the size of Massachusetts. Luwire forms its southern border. Niassa’s diverse ecosystems support many species – including globally important populations of elephant, lion, leopard, sable, zebra, hippo, and crocodile. Rhinos went locally extinct only in the last ten years.