The French government has offered six million euros (about 6.4 million US dollars) to support Mozambique’s conservation areas and particularly the protection of elephants.

The project was launched in Maputo at a ceremony chaired by the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia. It will be coordinated by the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), a specialist institution under Correia’s Ministry.

Poaching has devastated Mozambique’s elephant herds. The last elephant census, in 2014, showed that over the previous five years the elephant population had fallen by 48 per cent, from just over 20,000 in 2009 to around 10,300 in 2014.

Half of the French grant, three million euros, will be spent on strengthening surveillance and combating poaching in the Niassa Reserve (in the far north), and in the Limpopo National Park (bordering on South Africa’s Kruger Park). This are the two conservation areas worst hit by the slaughter of elephants and rhinos. Indeed, it is now feared that both African species of rhinoceros may now be extinct in Mozambique.

A further million euros will go towards the institutional strengthening of ANAC’s protection and monitoring sector.

The final two million euros will be channeled to the Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity (Biofund) to finance the conservation areas and increase their capacity for administrative and financial management.

Launched in June 2015 by President Filipe Nyusi, Biofund seeks to mobilize finance to cover the operational costs of Mozambique’s 19 conservation areas and zones of special protection.

The project will last for four years. The activities to be undertaken over that period include a new national census of elephants, monitoring of elephants, notably through aerial surveillance, legal assistance for prosecuting environmental crimes, creating a data base on poaching, and opening new posts for game wardens.

In the fight against poaching and ivory smuggling, ANAC also hopes to improve its cooperation with the recently created police unit to protect the environment and natural resources, with the customs service, with the institutions of the administration of justice and with community leaders.

With this grant, French support for Mozambique’s conservation since 2005 has risen to 31.5 million euros.