The head of Mokore Safaris anti-poaching program was killed confronting elephant poachers.
By Barbara Crown, Editor-in-Chief
Mokore Safaris lost its head of antipoaching, Nguenha Jose Mareau, on Feb. 9 during a confrontation with poachers in its Coutada 9 concession in Mozambique. According to an email from operator Gary Duckworth, Mareau, known to clients and friends as Ngwenya, received a report from their antipoaching patrol in the northern reaches of the concession regarding fresh sign of poachers tracking a wounded elephant. Mareau went to the local police station and three police officers accompanied him to the area. They caught up to the poachers at last light where they had set up camp for the night. Armed with AK-47s, the poachers refused to surrender and instigated a shoot-out with police. Mareau took a bullet through an arm and into his stomach. He died en route to the vehicle parked several miles away. One poacher was killed in the exchange and another badly wounded.
Mokore Safaris has spent the past 16 years rebuilding Coutada 9 after 20 years of civil war devasted the wildlife there. A massive concession of nearly one million acres, the area was previously held by the old Safrique and was known for its great populations of lion and buffalo prior to the war. In addition to operating an aggressive antipoaching program, Mareau also helped Mokore open more than 1,000 kilometers of new roads that facilitated antipoaching, drill 22 water wells and build 12 dams and reservoirs to create water sources for animals in the area.
Coutada 9 holds a resident population of about 350 to 400 elephants, which Mokore Safaris has fought to protect from elephant poachers typically toting AK-47s. “Over the years our antipoaching scouts have had several run-ins with these guys, and we were determined to catch them,” says Duckworth. “We believe it to be a group of four guys that has been responsible for most of the elephant poaching in Coutada 9. With the Coutada being so large, it has been difficult to catch up to this group, as it normally comes in, hits one or two elephants in remote locations, cuts the ivory out, then retreats for one to two months, making it challenging to catch them.
“Ngwenya’s passing is a massive loss to Mokore, Coutada 9, wildlife conservation, and most of all, to his wife and four children. His big smile and determination to make a difference will be truly missed. We are trying to raise funds for his family to help put his kids through school, so if anyone would like to donate money toward his family, please let us know.”
Duckworth says Mareau saved a message on his phone before he died requesting help completing the house he was building for his wife and children. If you knew Mareau or simply would like to help, contact Gary Duckworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.