Conservationists fear that increased wildlife poaching in Africa’s Congo Basin rainforest may spread to Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, one of the last strongholds for forest elephants. Though the park’s elephant numbers have held steady, continent-wide declines mean ivory poachers may soon find their way into this safe haven. In surrounding areas throughout northern Republic of Congo, poachers have killed 5,000 forest elephants during the last five years alone. Across the region, elephant populations have declined by more than 50 percent since 2006.
To address these concerns, WCS recommends immediately increasing patrols monitoring Nouabalé-Ndoki. Because of the vast area of the park—about the size of Rhode Island— bolstering its protection means doubling the number of guards within the protected area, as well as fortifying the certified logging concessions and swamps that flank it. These surrounding areas were formerly impenetrable, but new roads have provided access to poachers.
Steve Sanderson, WCS President and CEO, said, “This conservation crisis means that Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and its surrounding lands must be turned into a bastion of hope for forest elephants. We must do all we can to ensure that these magnificent animals remain safe from poachers.”
The illegal ivory trade has been linked with an international wave of organized crime that connects trafficking in wildlife, humans, drugs, and weapons. As a result, forest elephants in protected areas like Nouabalé-Ndoki are fast becoming the last representatives of their species. Increased conservation efforts not only ensure the longevity of these wildlife strongholds; they also convey an important message to poachers.
Support for the management and protection of Nouabalé -Ndoki National Park is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, the Sangha Trinational Foundation, German Development Bank (KfW), French Development Bank (AFD), Spain-UNEP LifeWeb, and others.