By Jeremy Hance
The effort to save wildlife from destruction worldwide has many heroes. Some receive accolades for their work, but others live in obscurity, doing good—sometimes even dangerous—work everyday with little recognition. These are not scientists or big-name conservationists, but wildlife rangers, NGO staff members, and low level officials. One of these conservation heroes is Bunda Bokitsi, chief guard of the Etate Patrol Post for Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a nation known for a prolonged civil war, desperate poverty, and corruption—as well as an astounding natural heritage—Bunda Bokitsi works everyday to secure Salonga National Park from poachers, bushmeat hunters, and trappers. In his years of service as a wildlife ranger, and now chief guard, Bokitsi has not only put his life on the line, but has also been falsely imprisoned and even tortured.
"If, for example, today I receive the instruction to follow poachers in the forest, I see such situations as if either the poacher or I will have to leave this world," Bokitsi told mongabay.com. "Poachers are destroying where we are living. In 2002, when I was the chief of the patrol post at Boangui, I found two poachers with guns and two big elephant tusks in the forest while I was on patrol [...\ One of the poachers ran away, the other started shooting at us. I returned fire and was finally able to capture him; his name was Batuka. [We\ recuperated the ivory. In situations like that, it becomes body to body. Anything can happen."
Bokitsi is one of the year's recipients of the Alexander Abraham award, established in part to give recognition to conservation heroes on the frontlines in Asia and Africa. Many of its awards are given posthumously to those who have lost lives in the battle to save the world's wild places. This year seven men were honored who had lost lives in duty; nine others, including Bokitsi, also received awards.
Having worked in Salonga National Park since 1990, and lived in the area all his life, Bokitsi has seen many changes. More....