Conservationists in Mozambique say two alleged elephant poachers escaped from a police station while awaiting trial, undermining efforts to implement a new anti-poaching law in the southern African country.

Authorities are investigating how Paolo Nyenje and Antonio Bernardo were able on Oct. 27 to slip out of a holding cell at the Mecula police station in Niassa National Reserve, a vast wildlife area in northern Mozambique.

Alastair Nelson heads the Mozambique program for the New York City-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the Niassa reserve along with partners in the Mozambican government. Nelson said this week the suspects may have crossed the border into Tanzania to seek refuge.

He says the two men were arrested in September. Three assault rifles and two hunting rifles were found in their possession.