Niassa Wilderness became the first concession in the reserve to be allocated and then funded by a private investor in 2000. Consequently we’ve been fighting poaching in Niassa for 16 years. Our law enforcement team has been responsible for more than 80% of Niassa National Reserve’s total anti-poaching arrests and convictions (including firearms seizure) during this time.
More recently, with the dramatic increase in coordinated elephant poaching due to the demand in ivory. We decided in late 2015 to cease photographic tourism and start the process to phase out consumptive safaris, in order to redirect this capacity and resources. The result being that we have directed all our efforts to anti-poaching and law enforcement from 2016.
With primary focus on the protection of elephants, we are able to face this ongoing task through our extensive road networks (1,200 km), 6 airstrips (including 3 at scout bases), aerial surveillance, and a team of 75 scouts. Supporting 10 scout bases, rapid reactionary units (RRU) and river teams, and a broader intelligence network of informers and alliance partners.
With an area of 4,450 km2 and 275km of Lugenda River frontage, our concession contains a favorable infrastructure of roads, air strips, and camps to support extensive conservation research, monitoring, and evaluation efforts. In 2016 we dedicated the eastern section (33%) of our area to pure wilderness protection and without consumptive safaris. This will grow to 50% in 2017 and finally across the entire operating area by the end of 2018.
As a result of dedicated anti-poaching efforts over the last 16 years, Block L7 has created a safe haven for Niassa’s diverse wildlife. Dedicated field management efforts have added to the richness of the area, further establishing a greater presence of all of Niassa’s animal species. As an outcome from elephant collaring across the Niassa Reserve in 2015/2016, we continuously support the monitoring of the mature bulls and breeding herd matriarchs that make Niassa Wilderness their predominant territory.
Built into our future biodiversity plans are a range of focused initiatives in order to continually research, evaluate, and monitor our wildlife.
Our communities are both a very important challenge and opportunity. The people have suffered greatly through the civil war, consequently we face the reality of a lack of respect for the environment, bush meat poaching, slash and burn agriculture, and unfortunately the illegal wildlife trade, particularly of ivory.
Our communities need to trust us. Our view is that education is the fundamental underpinning foundation for this change. Education allows people to question, challenge, and build confidence. So that once we agree what we need to do. With this foundation of trust, we can hold one another accountable to achieve the critical results we all need.
Niassa Wilderness has 7 community villages, consisting of 3,200 people in 800 households. Some of whom benefit through employment in support of our law enforcement and conservation initiatives. To date, we have rehabilitated 4 schools, provided team kit and transport for seasonal soccer tournaments, and allocated Ramadan parcels annually to 1,300 families.
In 2017, we will hire a permanent community manager as part of our leadership team. Thereafter, we can accelerate our efforts to integrate our communities deeper into our operating model, as they can play an ever increasing role in the protection of Block L7.
We plan to increase the level of benefit we can leverage from the fantastic foundation already in place at the Mariri Environmental & Education Centre. Designed and built through the tireless efforts of Mariri Investmentos, one of our NCA alliance partners.