By Taylor Toeka Kakala
At a popular tourist art market in Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, paintings and art sculptures made from bronze, copper, malachite, stone or wood attract visitors. It seems like an ordinary tourist market. But only the regulars know that this is also a black market for ivory products.
"Even though it's illegal, the ivory market still attracts art lovers, especially foreigners who hire brokers," a craftsman who requested anonymity told IPS.
Although an almost blanket ban on trading in ivory has been in place since 1989, the black market trade in ivory from forest-dwelling Congo Basin elephants is alive and well in the DRC's large urban centres.
Major John Bonyoma, a judge in the Goma Military Court, told IPS that poachers were generally "rogue FARDC (the French acronym for the Congolese army) soldiers and militia commanders."
As far back as 2010, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora accused the Congolese army of being "responsible for 75 percent of poaching in nine out of 11 sites" in the country. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has declared the forest-dwelling Congo Basin elephants an endangered species.
The Congolese Nature Conservation Institute, known by its French acronym ICCN, estimates that around 1,000 elephants were poached in DRC between 2010 and 2013. The organisation also believes that local chiefs have been complicit in elephant poaching.
According to ICCN, 70 percent of the Congo Basin's forests, home to the forest-dwelling elephant, are in the DRC. A WWF study published last May stated that there are currently only 7,000 elephants in the country, compared to the 100,000 that existed 20 years ago. More....