Native Cultural Experiences
Villages are scattered along the edges of Coutada 9 as natives cling to that golden age of long ago. More "normal" attire has replaced topless painted skin and cell phones en-vogue success. But their spirit remains tied to simplicity. Grass huts, crops balanced atop heads, baby's precariously strapped to Mom, and smiles more bright than Mozambique's golden sunsets.
Gajogo Safarilands hires these folks to raise our vegetables; they are our camp staff, trackers, waiters, drivers, and all in all provide the very foundation of what you have come to Africa to experience. If desired, visit their huts to truly see the Africa that few ever do. No gimmicks…just life.
Management of the 1.1 million acre of Coutada 9 required disciplines not initially understood by natives to meet the needs of the wildlife, people, environment, and government. A key component was the sheer numbers of people who had used Coutada 9 illegally prior Gajogo taking the reigns. Unbelievably, the basis for level of usage can be traced back the the USA.
Immediately following the war, a record breaking 3 year drought further wreaked havoc upon the animals, and the people who by-in-large had migrated post war into Coutada 9 to access game (meat). But the already struggling wildlife populations died back to record lows and the game was no longer capable of feeding the natives; nor was the water sufficient to produce crops or simply meet normal human needs. Food and water were virtually gone, which would have compelled the local natives to leave as well, except for USA Aid Organizations. Food was shipped and water wells were drilled along the 3 roads the make-up 75% of the boundary of Coutada 9. The local natives were spared, but the wildlife was not.
Bellies full, and with no crops to harvest, the local natives returned to Coutada 9 to reap its crop of gold, precious stones, honey, and what ever animals could still be found in an effort to make any income. A significant mine was established and hundreds of people panned for gold; all taking any honey that was located. The wilderness in Coutada 9 was now becoming threatened by people. None of this was anticipated, and suddenly in addition to the cost and efforts of anti-poaching for animals, anti-poaching forces had to remove mines, miners, panners, honey seekers, and the villages that had sprung up adjacent to what ever small water sources remained... making that precious water inaccessible to wildlife. Then to add insult to injury in about 2010 the Chinese began illegal logging operations wherever they could. Coutada 9 was not spared, but the immense size and ruggedness of the Coutada limited timber theft mainly to the edges.
Forty five game scouts were hired to stop the theft of natural resources as well as the animal poaching that was rampantly underway. Currently, all villages have voluntarily moved out of the area, of course with payment and transportation provided by the operators in Coutada 9. Mining has virtually stopped, a logging operation is stopped each year, and as they natives say badogo badogo (Shona for bit by bit), serenity and tranquility have returned to the wild lands of Coutada 9.
Up until 2014 "Meat Poaching" was considered hunting, which village men did as a mean of sustenance and income. So arresting poachers, as a required condition of operational contract within Coutada 9, was only a hindrance to their progress. Laws have finally been established and today poaching carries significant penalties. However, pressure from growing human populations have increased the demand for bush-meat to unsustainable levels, and the poaching continues to grow despite significant increase in the number of arrests and convictions each year. All of these costs are bore solely by the outfitters. Trophy hunting is the only means possible to secure sufficient funding that remotely covers anti-poaching expenses. Photo safaris cannot produce ample income.
There are two types of animal poaching; Meat and Ivory (includes Pangolin poaching whose keratin scales have recently become extremely valuable to Asian men as it is believed to provide the same amazing sexual powers as Rhino horn). Meat poachers are generally locals who use "Gin" traps as their primary method to take animals. The meat is sold to dealers and some of it goes as far as Johannesburg, SA. Very little of it is used for their daily sustenance.
Since its start in 2005 over 4500 gin traps have been confiscated. The record being Gajogo's haul of 54 in September 2018. These traps are demonstrably devastating because they catch everything regardless of species, gender, or age. Trophy hunters take a maximum of 3% old bulls which are generally beyond breeding age. This actually improves species sustainability as resources are left for those who are reproducing.
The most dangerous poachers are Ivory poachers. They are generally not locals, but professionals who travel from country to country, often on foot. killing as they proceed. Their business is high stakes, as penalties are often "shoot on sight" in several African countries. However, Mozambique to date has not adopted this this level of enforcement. If ivory poachers are successful, agents collect and sell the ivory, which usually finds its way illegally to China for distribution throughout Asia. In 2005, black-market ivory sold for $500 per pound, today it is $1,000. A normal Gajogo bull will have about 45 pounds of ivory with each tusk making the animal's value $90,000.