This is the second installment of a series of posts from Dr. Cleve Hicks. Cleve did his PhD research in the DRC studying chimps in the Bili Forest. Read Part 1 of this story about some of his experiences here. WARNING: some disturbing images are included in this entry.
I was encouraged to see that a strong ICCN contingent of 20 Ecoguards was now installed inside Rubi-Tele, actively arresting poachers and confiscating bushmeat. Another twenty guards were scheduled to join them soon. This team patrols the forests of the reserve during the first three weeks of every month, and then on the last week they pass through the roadside villages down the highway bisecting the game reserve. Together with the road block erected at Sukisa, we can hope that these patrols will make a difference for the embattled wildlife of these forests. On this trip I counted the carcasses of 15 monkeys on the road between Kisangani and the southern border of Rubi-Tele. Of the four un-smoked carcasses we could identify to species, three were red tailed guenons and one was a red colobus; we also saw two hornbills, an African civet, a turacao, and a duiker for sale. Encouragingly, inside the Rubi-Tele reserve, we saw no primate carcasses, save for one cast-aside monkey tooth next to a village hearth 12 km south of Buta Town. We also saw the fresh carcass of a duiker pass us on a bike.
If enough chimpanzees in the far corners of the reserve have managed to survive the poaching onslaught of the last decade, Rubi-Tele might provide us with a convenient research base, being close to village markets and protected by guards. I also hope that it might serve as an ICCN spearhead into the more remote reaches of northern DRC, in particular, into the much larger and less-disturbed Bili-Uéré Domaine de Chasse. Our team of six guards, I hope, will be the vanguard of that movement.
The next day, our goal was to reach Buta Town by nightfall. From our caravan of motorbikes, we held our breath as we watched the Nissan catapult across the 35 km warren of mud pits separating Sukisa from Buta. It seemed a miracle that Karsten’s delicate camera traps survived the truck’s repeated lurching out of one rut and down into the next. More....