Mozambique to establish armed force to halt rhino slaughter

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JOHANNESBURG — Mozambique will hire ex-military personnel to set up a force to combat the poaching of rhinoceroses and elephants in both its own conservation areas and those of neighboring South Africa, the Joaquim Chissano Foundation said.

The foundation, named after the country's second president, will partner the government in an initiative that aims to stop the slaughter and illegal trade of rhino as well as reduce the number of Mozambicans killed in fighting poaching, said the foundation's spokesman Nigel Morgan. The initiative was announced Tuesday.

Mozambican poachers often cross a porous border into South Africa's Kruger National Park where they are shot in clashes with rangers.

"We need boots on the ground," said Morgan by mobile phone. "We'll set up a unit and it'll be internationally funded and trained."

More than 688 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year compared with 668 a year earlier, according to the government. About 418 of those have occurred in Kruger, an area the size of Israel.

"It's organized crime and the people making the real money are not Mozambican," Morgan said in the interview. "It's the international crime syndicates which are running the rhino horn and ivory racket."

Rhino horns and ivory are smuggled mainly to Asian countries including China and Vietnam. Rhino horn is believed, falsely, to cure cancer and increase virility.