MILITANT POACHING IN GARAMBA NATIONAL PARK
Garamba National Park is located in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in a region bordering South Sudan. Covering 500,000ha, the park has been on the World Heritage ‘in Danger’ list since 1996, due to pressure from poachers on its exceptional large mammal populations.
Due to a huge recent increase in poaching, Garamba is seen to be on the front line of the illegal ivory poaching crisis. The park’s elephant population is now estimated to have fallen to less than 1,500 individuals. The poachers in Garamba are extremely well-resourced, sometimes using helicopters and automatic weapons to decimate entire herds. Without the critical work currently being carried out by the grantees, this scale of poaching could lead to the loss Garamba’s unique elephants within 8-10 years – a major loss of the Outstanding Universal Value for which the site was accorded World Heritage status.
As well as the impacts on elephants, this unprecedented wave of poaching has had a devastating human impact. In October, four men (three rangers and one army colonel) were killed during an anti-poaching operation, adding to a rising death toll amongst personnel trying to protect the park from gangs of highly armed poachers.
Further to the RRF’s recent investment to provide logistical support to the park to increase patrol effort, the loss of human life has highlighted the need to improve the effectiveness of rangers to carry out anti-poaching operations safely.
The RRF grant awarded to African Parks Network in October 2015 will be used to purchase long-range binoculars and night vision equipment to assist with the early detection of helicopters as they approach the park. It is hoped this will give rangers an advantage in detecting poaching incident as well as assist teams in identifying the aircraft, to help track the source of the poaching.