Late December 2012. A woman working in her garden by Yosenge exchanges greetings with a small group returning from the forest. They have an AK 47. She knows that means that they were hunting elephants. Her own husband is an expert marksman. If the affair is leaked, her husband will certainly be accused. That evening she reports the gun to the village chief.
There is a small remnant-group of elephants – perhaps five, perhaps ten – between the villages of Katopa, Bamanga and the Yosenge path. This group is often in the forests around Katopa where we have a base camp and work closely with the village. The elephants are safe near Katopa, even if they destroy some banana plants. The chief takes pride in having rebuffed elephant poachers who wanted to base out of his village. But elephants need more than the forest near Katopa; they follow the ripening of fruit into the forests of Bamanga, Yosenge…and elsewhere.
In November, Nyarcos Nyanga, the owner of the gun came to the village of Bamanga with his hunter from Yosenge . Bamanga was their new base. They killed their first elephant in November. They killed a second in early December. They were trying for a third elephant when the Yosenge villager saw them in her garden and sounded the alarm.
The chief summoned the hunter. Nyarcos, also in Yosenge, fled immediately to Alumba. Although Yosenge sent a fast runner to Alumba with information to arrest Nyarcos, the chief of Alumba (bribed?) let him sneak out of the village, back to the province of Maniema.
Our contacts in Kindu did a little research and discovered that in December Nyarcos had sold elephant meat to a few market women. He had also taken the meat from government office to government office where he sold it on the black market. It is there that the buyers can afford to pay…
Back in Kasai, the province where the killings occurred, six military came from the district capital to find out what happened. They arrested the chief of Alumba and the chief of Bamanga. Each paid one goat.
Two goats for two elephants…… that may be the only price to pay.