The Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa is home to one of the oldest national parks on the continent. African Parks who work in partnership with governments who elect to use their services is taking on the long-term management of Garamba National park. They face a massive task to halt elephant poaching, as was revealed in a BBC documentary entitled The End of the Elephants, 2016.
Gone in a life-time.
When Alastair Leithead investigated the declining numbers of elephants in the Congo, he discovered that the elephants could easily disappear in a single life time. Speaking to a spokesperson from African Parks, he was told that eight years ago there were about 4000 elephants in the Garamba, but today, their numbers are only estimated to be in the region of 1200 #Animals.
Poachers feel heroic.
The carnage on the herds is being carried out by poachers who feel no regrets. One poacher told Alistair that He is heroic for killing the elephants as they terrorise the people by raiding farmlands. The poachers are better armed than the 100 rangers who patrol the park, better equipped and seem to have plenty of funds from the cartels who supply the Asian demand for ivory.
Ranger training relies on funding.
African Parks are training the rangers, but it is evident they are outclassed by the weapons of the poachers. The training is funded by private donors, the EU, and through the work of African Parks Foundation USA but there is no income generated from tourism as even the most intrepid traveller is unlikely to visit the park.
Rebel militants and ranger deaths.
The Park is close to the unstable South Sudan. The Congo itself has large numbers of rebel militants who operate in the area, and many of them are shooting the elephants to fund their rebel movements. These rebels are vicious and are not afraid to shoot and kill any ranger who gets in their way. The rangers really do put their own lives right on the line when they try to protect their elephants.
Littered with dead elephants.
The park seems to be littered with dead elephants. During his visit, Alistair flew in a spotter aircraft and saw for himself an entire family herd of six that had been slaughtered for their tusks. Even a little one was killed. On foot, he was shown two carcasses from about three weeks previously. Rangers told him that they had attempted to track the poachers, but after losing the trail had to give up. This is a tragically common event in the Garamba. The park needs at least three times as many rangers as they have at present, despite the fact that some Congolese soldiers are helping to protect the park.
A terrifying reality.
The BBC’s executive producer, Dan Kelly has made a realistic, dramatic and terrifying video in The End of The Elephants, 2016. He has brought the stark reality of a future without wild elephants to world attention. The insatiable demand for ivory, the well-connected traffickers, and the better-armed poachers are wreaking havoc on Africa’s elephant herds. At the moment, there seems to be a very real possibility that the wild elephants of Africa will live on only within the libraries of the BBC and Youtube.