Kindu, like much of Maniema, fed the 19th century Arab ivory trails. Slave caravans came south carrying ivory from RibaRiba (now Lokandu), ivory “culled” from the forests of the Lomami. On arrival at the site of Kindu, the caravans had to leave the Congo River and cut overland around the Maniema Congo rapids. They headed south to the Arab capital of Nyangwe and eventually east towards the market of Zanzibar.
You can still hear this era in Kindu’s “Arabisé” names: “Mustafa, Saleem, Omari, Jamal….”
And you can still see this era in the elderly ivory craftsmen, several generations later, working under strangely similar conditions out of their Kindu homes.
There is no big money here. This is not the wealth that drives the poaching of elephants – and yet the poaching continues. The markets that matter are outside the country, in the far east: Japan and China. And they still receive Congolese ivory. The head of Congo’s park service tells me elephant poaching is increasing. How much does this killing hide behind or feed into the legal ivory marketing in the South African States?