Our giant dug-out moored at a hunting camp just south of Obenge
I saw Terese’s footnote to the elephant post. She says that here along the Lomami there is one area with fairly good elephant sign but the area is in more danger than we had guessed. You bet it is. We got back to Obenge a couple of days ago. This is where we stopped at the end of June, beginning of July. We saw lots of elephant sign then. Just 9 km from the village we saw tracks and fresh dung piles. There were tracks of baby elephants as well.
What is frightening is that Obenge is a real center for bushmeat trade – and big bushmeat – I mean elephants. Elephants have been decimated in the north where there have been big settlements for a long time. In the south rebel soldiers eliminated them with AK 47s just during the last decade. What is left is sandwiched here in the middle. And of course it is good hunting for everything else as well. There are no scruples . Elephant and Bonobo are killed as easily as a genet or a duiker and – hey – they bring more money as well – especially elephant.
This time we put our tents up in an empty hunting camp along the river, just south of Obenge. Then the hunter showed up. A friendly guy. He says he has killed over 20 bonobo and 2 elephants in the last month. Pretty depressing , even if he exaggerated and it was really all last year – but I don’t think he did.
We have got to do something about this now!!
Get this : On our way south, as we were leaving Obenge we met an army Major who had come down from Kisangani. That Major is right now in the forest hunting elephants near here. The hunter we talked to said that the Major lashed him with an elephant hide whip, to make him hand over the ivory from the two elephants. I believe him – he showed us the scars on his back and they are recent.
What’s more: when I complained to the “chef de village” in Obenge he shrugged his shoulders and said that the General in Kisangani gives arms and ammunition to “his men” – ie this major – to hunt elephants down here.
We have got to do something. In Kisangani – ok, Terese?
The only elephant “crotte” that Bernard found down south was over near the Tshuapa River and there are certainly none near the Lomami River, nor did Maurice’s team, that went east, find any sign of elephant.
ANOTHER NOTE FROM TERESE :
Ashley sent the message above a few days ago. Even as I post it and write this he is drawing near to Kisangani. Tomorrow I leave Kinshasa for Kisangani myself – except I fly on Bravo Airlines!
In Kisangani, we will follow-up on the elephant poaching. With our friends at the Congolese Conservation Institute, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) , we will track down the General and try to meet with him. If the connection is fast enough at the cyber-café in Kisangani you will get a post from there, otherwise I will update you as soon as I am back in Kinshasa.