By Martina Polley
Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks has written an urgent letter outlining the current elephant poaching crisis in Gurumba National Park in northern Democratic Republic of Congo. In the past five weeks, 33 elephants have been poached in the park – ten of them killed on Friday.
The letter issued today, 13 May 2014, follows:
Dear conservation colleagues
New Poaching Onslaught on Garamba’s Elephants in DRC
I wish to advise you that Garamba National Park, which we manage in partnership with the DRC’s national park authority, ICCN, is facing a serious elephant poaching onslaught. Over the past five weeks, 33 elephants have been poached in the park – ten of them killed on Friday.
On Sunday, Garamba’s anti-poaching teams encountered a group of eight poachers in the park. An exchange of fire ensued, during which three of the poachers were killed. A second group of poachers, which were based nearby, abandoned their camp on hearing the gunfire. Details are sketchy as we are awaiting a full report back on these encounters from theanti-poaching teams which are still deep in the park.
We believe that the threat to Garamba and its elephant population is significant. As a result we are deploying additional patrols in the park, we have intensified aerial surveillance and we are liaising with security and intelligence organisations which may be able to assist. We are also dispatching one of our anti-poaching experts to Garamba to support the team on the ground.
Whilst we cannot confirm the source of the threat, we have reason to believe that the major poaching thrust is emanating from the heavily forested Azande Domaine de Chasse to the west of the park. Azande has been a traditional base for the Resistance Army (LRA) over many years however we are as yet unable to confirm whether the current poaching onslaught emanates from the LRA, Sudanese poaching gangs, local Congolese poachers, or a combination of these.
The extremely heightened level of poaching suggests organised groups of poachers focusing their efforts on Garamba.
We will keep you informed of progress as our investigations unfold and our aerial surveillance and anti-poaching teams follow up on the ground.
With best wishes
CEO, African Parks