The Garamba National Park in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) was declared a Heritage Site back in 1980. It's the home of the Congolese giraffe (Camelopardalis congolensis) which is now nearing extinction in the country. There are only thirty-four adults and a few calves left alive.

In 1993, there was a viable population of 356 animals, but by 2007 there were only eighty-five left alive. According to a report by International Business Times, by January 2016, there are so few left that if another five adults die, the herd could be non-viable and will probably go extinct. Aimé Balimbak (head of the Garamba research department) said that there are just 38 animals left and at a ratio of one male to 2.4 females it's still possible they can breed up again, but just a few more deaths could see the last of these lovely animals.

There are a number of reasons for their declining numbers. The fighting in Southern Sudan has caused an influx of refugees who have been known to kill the giraffes for food. They use the skins as payment for marriage dowries. In 1991, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) started migrating into the area surrounding the park, and by 1993, there were over fifty thousand of them (putting pressure on the park's resources). The local Congolese do not poach the animals for meat as they have a traditional legend that ascribes leprosy to the eating of the flesh. This does not stop them from poaching the animals to use the skins as blankets, hats and fly swats. The items made from the giraffe are a status symbol of wealth and influence.

The giraffe is not the only vulnerable species. The elephant population within the park fell from twenty thousand in the 1960’s to just 2000 in 2012. That same year, 22 elephants were poached by helicopter. Tusks and genitals were taken. A further sixty-eight animals were poached in 2014. 

The Garamba Park is managed by African Parks, a South African based conservation service, in partnership with the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. The park is home to the last three of the world’s Northern white rhino. African Parks is working hard to bring about community awareness of the importance of Garamba.

The International Centre on Conflict Negotiation (ICCN) has trained personnel who work directly with local communities. Regular meetings are held between local villagers, territory administrators, and civil society. Ninety-two locals are employed by the park, which benefits a number of families in the area. Despite their efforts, it looks grim for the Congolese giraffe. If they die out, another rare and endemic species will disappear. #News #Buzz