IFAW trains Congolese wildlife authorities in war against elephant poaching in Odzala-Kokoua National Park

Thursday, 17 March, 2011
A two-month anti-poaching training session conducted by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) is coming to a close in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, north-east of Congo.

Twenty five participants, including the park conservation officer and his three assistants, are being trained by two French instructors from the APB (Association for the Protection of the Biosphere) experts in anti-poaching strategy as part of an agreement between IFAW and the Ministry of Sustainable Development of Forest Economy and Environment of Congo.

“In addition to this training IFAW will also provide equipment such as uniforms for all the park rangers and radio equipment to the highly skilled and motivated trainees who are severely underfunded in the fight to halt the bloody and cruel international ivory trade” adds Céline Bienvenu, an IFAW expert in elephant poaching.

The Odzala-Kokoua National Park is under severe pressure due to elephant poaching. Of the 13,000 forest elephants that live in the park approximately 100 of them are killed each year by poachers, most of them by professional hunters. While the elephant meat, which is considered as a delicacy in Central Africa, is sent to urban Congolese markets, the elephant ivory is shipped to Asia, Europe and West Africa transiting through Gabon and Congo to fuel the illicit trade.

Illegal killing of elephants and possession of military guns and ammunitions are detected almost every month in Mbomo, just near the park. More than 13,000km² wide, the wildlife of Odzala Kokoua National Park is protected by only 68 rangers.

“The battle against poaching remains a priority for the Forest Administration as it supports the protection of our wildlife and the recovery of our ecosystems through eco-tourism. But conservation is expensive and the Congo cannot carry the cost alone." said Professor N'Zala, Director General of the Forestry Economy of the Congo. "Multilateral aid from the international community is always needed, so we greatly appreciate the support of IFAW in strengthening the capacity of the ecoguards of Odzala-Kokoua National Park.”

Odzala-Kokoua rainforest is a World Heritage Site and the second largest protected area in Central Africa. The park is the last forested home to lions and spotted hyenas. A high density of lowland gorillas also live here.

The training will end on Friday, March 18th. IFAW organised a similar training last year in the Salonga National park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 52 rangers were trained. Since 2009, IFAW has increased its efforts in central African countries with serious elephant poaching problems.

IFAW’s anti-poaching training is just one element of its work to protect elephants. Other efforts include important habitat and relocation work in southern Africa and India, public and political campaigns in EU to ensure there are no future ivory sales and public awareness campaigns in China to reduce demand.

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