IFAW provides operational support to the personnel of Congolese national park Odzala-Kokoua in their fight against poaching
The Odzala-Kokoua National Park in north-eastern Congo recently received nearly €100,000 (US$ 140,000) of equipment from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) to support rangers in their mission to protect local wildlife. This donation is part of the agreement between IFAW and the Congolese Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Forest Economy, and the Environment.
"In its bid to fight poaching in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, IFAW has been focusing its efforts on expanding operational capabilities by training eco-guards since early 2011. This initiative also involved helping the Ministry purchase new communication equipment, uniforms, GPS devices, tents, compasses and rucksacks to assist rangers in their mission to prevent poaching,” said Henri Djombo, the Congolese Minister of Sustainable Development, the Forest Economy and the Environment. The equipment will help Odzala-Kokoua’s highly motivated and competent staff by providing the resources its needs in its everyday struggle to protect biodiversity.
"Despite its enormous biodiversity potential and the countless opportunities it affords in terms of social and economic development, this area is under threat from poaching and man vs. animal conflict. It is faced with a lack of suitable infrastructure as well as sufficient material and financial resources," the Minister added.
In the 8,000 square kilometre (5,000 square mile) park, rangers are up against ever more professional poachers armed with weapons of war: military weapons and ammunition have become a regular sight in Mbomo, a small-town on the outskirts of the park. The battle against poaching is being waged at the risk of the rangers' lives, as evidenced by the death last month of an eco-guard in the Lobéké reservation in the south of neighbouring Cameroon.
As a World Heritage-listed rain forest and the second largest protected area in Central Africa, the Odzala-Kokoua National Park is under severe strain from elephant poaching. Out of the 13,000 forest elephants living in the park, local authorities report that about 100 are killed at the hands of poachers every year. Elephant meat is shipped to the markets of Congolese towns while ivory is exported to Asia, Europe and West Africa.
"Since 2009, IFAW has stepped up its efforts to support the fight against poaching in Central African countries where elephant populations are critically at risk," declared Céline Bienvenu, Director of IFAW for France and Francophone Africa.
Now more than ever, elephants are threatened with extinction, in no small part owing to the trade in ivory tusks. The year 2011 promises to set a new record: at least 5,004 elephant tusks and 12,493 kgs (27,485 lbs) of ivory have already been seized by customs throughout the world.
When it comes to protecting elephants, supporting the fight against poaching and shipping equipment are only part of IFAW's work: a lot is being done to protect the critically important habitat of this species in southern Africa and India, to resolve conflicts between man and elephants in a humane way and to prevent the resumption of international ivory trade by raising public and political awareness in Europe and China.
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.