By Heidi Marshall
About a month ago it was reported that Congo soldiers based in Virunga National Park were suspected of poaching a number of animals, including: 7 hippos, 5 elephants, 5 antelopes, 4 baboons, 3 chimpanzees, and 2 buffalo. Those suspicions were correct.
According to the commander of the army’s 15th Brigade (which is behind most of the killings), the soldiers have resorted to poaching because of the inadequacy of their food rations. On top of the poaching for food, soldiers have also developed an illegal ivory business in Nord-Kivu province, where the National Park is located. Traders purchase ivory from the troops in Goma and Butembo and then they ship the ivory to either China or Dubai.
IDPE (Innovation for the Development and Protection of the Environment) have been involved in the case. They claim that soldiers “use their wives and cousins to sell the meat” in villages near the park. Virunga National Park is the oldest in Africa and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hunting and fishing is completely banned in the park, though what punishment lies ahead for the soldiers remains to be seen.
At the very least, the military may be removed from the park altogether, as proposed by IDPE. More updates will be posted as they happen.