The Niassa National Reserve is as remote as it gets in Mozambique. The size of Tennessee or three times the size of the Serengeti‎, Niassa is the home of one of the last stands for the African savannah elephant. Estimates indicate there are 13,000 elephants left, down from 20,000 at their recent highest.

Complex issues, including weak governance and the illegal markets for ivory far away in Asia and the U.S., drive the crisis facing elephants in Niassa. Just in 2014 so far, 500 elephants have been killed by well-organized criminal groups across the reserve. Another one or two elephants will be killed today.

Two days ago, our team was called to an area of the reserve about 40 minutes from the headquarters by helicopter. Due to earlier suspicious activity in the area near that site, we had already positioned scouts at an observation post on top of an inselberg – one of the island-like mountains that rise up across the landscape – about 800 meters high. The scouts saw a fire, possibly a campfire for poachers, and alerted our reaction team, which has access to a helicopter temporarily assisting our operation this month.

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