Today, the 31st July, is an especially fitting day to release our second quarter report for 2015 as it is World Ranger Day - a day dedicated to the people who are at the sharp end of conservation and face extreme circumstances in their everyday work. This quarter alone was marred by the tragic deaths of two of our Garamba rangers and two members of the Congolese Armed Forces who were assisting us with patrols in the park. It is therefore fitting that we celebrate the lives of ranger Agoyo Mbikyo, shot by a group of poachers while on a 10 day patrol in the south of the park and ranger Jean-Marie Kpionyeslinani, Corporal Kambala Musubao and Lieutenant Moise Mospado who were ambushed by poachers when following up on an elephant poaching incident. I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the commitment and dedication of our more than 500 rangers who face similar threats on a daily basis. Equally important, are those of you who through your generous contributions, enable African Parks to provide death benefits to the families of every one of our people lost in service so that their tragedy is not a double one.
Despite the loss of life, the quarter has been an extremely busy one with tremendous successes on numerous fronts. The relocation and reintroduction of lions into Akagera National Park in Rwanda was one such highlight. The other was the conclusion of negotiations for the incorporation of Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve into the African Parks portfolio, taking us to 10 parks under management, covering 6 million hectares. There have also been positive developments on a number of new parks.
Tragic Loss of Life
On 25 April Garamba ranger, Agoyo Mbikyo, was shot by a group of poachers while on a 10 day patrol in the south of the park and although he managed to return to his unit's campsite, collapsed and died instantly thereafter. Then, in another clash with poachers, three men died on 17 June when they were ambushed by a heavily armed group. They were Garamba ranger Jean-Marie Kpionyeslinani and two members of the Congolese Armed Forces assisting with anti-poaching efforts: Corporal Kambala Musubao and Lieutenant Moise Mospado. Garamba's rangers, the Congolese army as well as members of a regional task force were all involved in comprehensive efforts to attempt to track and apprehend the poachers although regrettably they did not manage to do so. Their deaths are a very real reminder of the threats that all staff, not only rangers, face in protecting and operating parks and protected areas in Africa.
Royalty Returns to Akagera
At the end of June, our groundbreaking initiative to translocate seven lions from South Africa and their reintroduction into Akagera National Park in Rwanda generated waves of support and goodwill from not only the conservation fraternity, but also well-wishing members of the public and of the media, extending way beyond the borders of both Rwanda and the African continent. The five lionesses and the two males were released a couple of days ago and have remained together. I would like to once again congratulate our government partner, the Rwandan Development Board, and Akagera National Park, on the successful reintroduction.
The Annual Report - French version
The French version of the 2014 African Parks annual report has been published and is available. A PDF version of the report will also be available on the African Parks website. The theme of the 2014 report is our conservation model and its unique management and funding elements, and our focus on delivery and accountability.
There was also encouraging news in the second quarter regarding progress with new park development, across a number of fronts:
- In Malawi, the President and Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture approved the public-private partnership with African Parks for the management of Liwonde and Nkhotakota. The agreement was signed on the 22 July and the formal transfer of management responsibility happens on 1 August.
- In Kenya, African Parks is continuing to liaise closely with the Isiolo County Government about Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves. The business plan for the two reserves has been completed and will be the subject of a discussion at the next APN Board meeting in early August.
- In Nigeria, negotiations to conclude mandates for Gashaka-Gumpti and Cross River National Parks hit a legal stumbling block in that legislation precludes the Nigerian National Parks Service (NNPS) from such partnerships.
- In Mozambique, African Parks is in discussions with ANAC, the Mozambique Parks Authority regarding the possibility of managing the Bazaruto Archipelago National Marine Park. The park protects a number of key species including the dugong, sea turtles and dolphins. Presently the key challenge is to reach an agreement with the ANAC on the full delegation of day-to-day management responsibility.
- In Chad, African Parks has appointed a park manger to assess the potential for Ennedi to be established as a wildlife and cultural protected area. Park manager, Rocco Rava, has in turn appointed a small team and set up a base at the town of Farda in order to carry out the assessment which African Parks expects will be completed by November 2016.
- In Ethiopia, significant progress has been made by park manager, Martin Rickleton, and his team. A small camp, Puju, has been established as the first operating base, access roads to it have been built and an initial census was conducted. Early indications are that there are almost double the number of giraffe and elephant than previously thought.
- Following the announcement in June by the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources, confirming the decline in the country's elephant population, African Parks was invited to investigate the possibility of taking over the management of Burigi, Biharamulo and Kimisi Game Reserves in the north-western corner of the country, between Lake Victoria and Rwanda. A fact-finding mission was undertaken late in June and dialogue with the Tanzanian Government is continuing.
The late Bill Fitzpatrick, our Odzala pilot
African Parks, in conjunction with the US Embassy in Cameroon, is driving ongoing efforts to gain permission to access the plane crash site in order to retrieve the remains of the late Bill Fitzpatrick and repatriate them to the USA. The park plane Bill was flying between Nigeria and Cameroon en route to Odzala crashed in the mountainous southwest area of Cameroon on 22 June last year. The first of two tributes to celebrate his life was held in the Bronx in New York on 11 July and a second was organised in Bill's hometown of Stehekin in Washington State on 25 July. Our sincere condolences go to Bill's wife Paula, and their three children, Mary, Matthew and Cody. The tragedy was compounded initially by the difficulty in locating the crash site and, more recently, it has been exacerbated by protracted bureaucratic delays precluding us from accessing the site.