A Geographic look at bushmeat hunting in DRCongo.
Are there safe sites for forest animals in DR Congo ? It is, after all, a country of many protected areas. Are these parks and reserves safe?
Information from the recent war and post war period is not reassuring. Protected areas were/are very permeable to arms and bushmeat trafficking.
The quotes above are from the period of the war and ensuing anarchy. The protected areas shown are those most likely to be successfully protected (see bottom of post for a map with a more complete coverage of Congo’s protected area network and for translations of the above quotes)
Don’t be discouraged.
The very fact that there are people to quote, means that there are people fighting to assert the integrity of these areas. Major setbacks have been followed by major steps forward.
Park guards in the Okapi Reserve arrested, and are transporting this poacher to the Park Center in the Ituri Forest.
We CAN have a future WITH Congo’s forest animals. The promise lies in formal protected areas. Although far from problem-free, these can make a big difference that we are now beginning to witness. How so?
1) There is a legal basis to arrest and prosecute not only elephant poachers but bushmeat hunters in protected areas.
2) There is a national institutional structure with wardens and park guards, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).
3) There is an international interest in Congolese protected areas and nature conservation. This international interest brought key protected areas through war with borders intact and animals inside. And it is that international interest that is allowing ICCN and the protected areas to reconstitute post-war.
4) Finally: new areas. There are remote areas that retain rich faunas. The ICCN is committed to protect these. Effective protection will depend upon discovery of the most crucial areas and effective support from local populations. Then national and international backing must be brought to these areas so that ICCN can build a park infrastructure from ground up.
During the war in Maiko Park, Maimai and Simba rebels lived off the park.
Inside protected areas today, animals have a far better chance of NOT dying at the hand of man, than they do outside. This is despite the slackening of protection during the war.
In the Okapi Reserve, uncontrolled military, using automatic weapons, were the elephant poachers. Here Crispin (now in TL2) holds up an elephant ear left by poachers in their camp.
Our exploration teams marched through some forests in the west and north of the TL2 landscape that had been emptied by bushmeat hunters, showing how important it is to manage – and protect – forests like those of the east and south of TL2, that have abundant and rare animals.
In the Rubi Tele Reserve there are over thirty small scale diamond mines (100 or fewer miners) with one very large one (several thousand miners) outside. All the miners live off of bushmeat from Rubi Tele.
Protected Areas hold a potential that can be made real. It is a potential for Congo’s animals
• to persist into the next generations,
• to drive a tourist industry,
• to support traditional lifestyles …..
Traditional hunting in the Okapi Reserve can continue to be viable because a part of the Reserve is protected from all forms of hunting and thus acts as a reservoir and breeding ground for the larger area where only traditional forms of hunting are permitted. (Kim Gjerstad photo)
This is the smallest forest antelope of the Ituri Forest, the hunting net still around its legs.(Kim Gjerstad photo)
This is one of the medium-sized antelope, the hunting net from liana fiber visible below. (Kim Gjerstad photo)
A completely protected area, a national park, would mark off for our nearest animal relatives (bonobo) their own corner of the world. TL2 should be one of those corners – or rather a commons for apes right in the middle of Congo.
TL2 is right in the middle. Let it be a bonobo commons. And within it, let there be a national park.
And soon , more about protecting the TL2: Challenges and Solutions.
Translations for Map 1 (a bit more complete than on the map):
World Heritage Sites –
Garamba: “The Sudanese horsemen have killed almost 1,000 elephants in the past year and are on the verge of eliminating the last wild population of northern white rhinos.” Norton. Interior Secretary of USA, 2004
Okapi Faunal Reserve: “…I have the honor of informing you…a poacher, known as Master, was arrested by park guard of the Okapi Reserve in February 2004 and was transferred to Beni from where he slipped away a couple months later and is now again poaching in the Okapi Reserve.” Inventory team leader, Okapi Reservem July 2005.
Virungas : “…four buffalo shot down, 14 colobus shot down, four elephants shot down, one lion shot down, 29 hippopotami shot down.” Virunga park guard report 2004
Kahuzi Biega : Rebel activities continue in the lowland sector where the main gorilla population existed before war. It has been off limits for ICCN activity through the war. Thus, unable to confirm reports of extensive gorilla slaughter. NGO report 2004
Salonga: Large scale bushmeat hunting started rather recently (southern Salonga). Hunting with automatic weapons changed from mainly elephants for ivory to monkeys for the lucrative bushmeat trade… reasearcher 2007
Other protected areas—
Maiko: “honor to bring to your attention that the slaughter of animals happens systematically in the central sector of Maiko national Park, mainly carried out by Maimai rebels….” park warden, ICCN, 2005
Bili Uere : “disturbing news…zones of Bili are invaded by hundreds of gold panners…this can have a disastrous effect on the fauna.” Researcher 2007
Rubi Tele : “…the big hunters come from elsewhere. They use 12 caliber rifles as well as snares…” environmental Impact Study 2007.