Sanjas stop lion attacks during Niassa’s big wet

The “sanja” shelter- a house on stilts- is one example of the forward thinking of the people of Niassa – supported by the Niassa Carnivore Project (NCP) in Niassa National Reserve in the north of Mozambique.

“Sanjas and log corrals protect people and livestock from possible lion attacks during the wet season when people are in the fields protecting their crops and lions come looking for food. However, the building of these tall huts needs to be more widespread, to protect more people,” said NCP’s Colleen Begg.

Examples of "sanja" shelters

Wildlife populations have steadily increased each year since Fauna & Flora International (FFI) became active in Niassa in 2000 – working with local organisations to lessen human animal conflict and to conduct research into the status and threats to lions, leopards, spotted hyenas and African wild dogs in the reserve. FFI and the NCP work to develop indicators and survey methods for monitoring activities by local conservationists and the Mozambican Reserve management authority (SGDRN).

Logging and poaching

However, conservation of this wilderness is increasingly difficult, due to new and remerging threats: illegal logging, mining and the re-emergence of ivory poaching.

“Illegal logging particularly in the north east of the reserve is rising. There are literally hundreds of tonnes of timber involved in the illicit trade across the border into Tanzania. This threat emerged in the last two years. The logging is starting to expand westwards along the Rovuma River,” explained FFI Conservation Area Manager, Matt Rice, in Niassa.

Logging and the re-emergence of ivory poaching is largely because the reserve is much more accessible to people following the construction of better roads in Tanzania and Mozambique.

“Moreover, the reserve is increasingly covered by mobile telecommunications, a tool widely used by poachers and those involved with illegal trade,” added Rice.

The Niassa National Reserve is 42, 000km2 – the size of Denmark. It is one of Africa’s largest and most undeveloped protected areas.

The challenge now is to continue to protect this habitat and wildlife from these much bigger threats; logging, mining and poaching.

In a positive step, the Mozambican government announced plans to extend the extent of reserve, at the end of last month.