GARAMBA NATIONAL PARK
Democratic Republic of Congo
The deaths of two Garamba guards and two members of FARDC (the Congolese Armed Forces) assisting with anti-poaching controls in the park was a sobering reminder of the dangers that rangers face in all the parks managed by African Parks on a daily basis.
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. He managed to return to his unit's campsite but collapsed and died instantly. In another clash with poachers, three men died on 17 June when they were ambushed by a heavily -armed group. The three men were Garamba ranger Jean-Marie Kpionyeslinani and the two members of the Congolese Armed Forces assisting with anti-poaching efforts: Corporal Kambala Musubao and Lieutenant Moise Mospado.
Despite the tragic losses, the Garamba park team remained resolute in its commitment to protecting the park and strategic anti-poaching measures and interventions continued to roll out. The park's new digital radio network was installed to significantly improve communications. Repeaters were installed at three towers in order to relay communications signals thereby providing good radio coverage over the park and large tracts of the hunting blocks. The new system has also enabled the control room to track all patrols in real time through their GPS capabilities.
A back-up power system was installed at the park headquarters at Nagero and the radio room was upgraded to accommodate the new digital radios and an electronic tracking screen. The roof was erected on the new Rapid Response Facility that houses accommodation for rangers and stores for supplies however a cement shortage delayed the installation of the windows and doors. The cement shortage also delayed the completion of the helicopter hangar.
An area was cleared to set up an additional airstrip in the park and repair work was carried out on bridges by the road team.
In order to improve the efficiencies of patrols in the wet season a Unimog light-truck was deployed to Bagunda Hill in the north of the park where it will be permanently based. This measure will enable ground patrols to operate in the north of Garamba throughout the year.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
An additional seven giraffes were identified for the protection programme that will involve ear tagging the animals with UHF devices, bring to 45 the number in the proposed initiative. In addition, an identified individual in each group will also be fitted with a satellite collar.
All the elephants protected and tracked by satellite collars were accounted for.
A total of 91 long patrols (10 to 14 days) and 16 short patrols were undertaken during the quarter, resulting in 12 clashes with groups of poachers. Nineteen fresh elephant carcasses were discovered in the park as well as nine older carcasses whose demise was attributed to natural or unknown causes. Four poachers and three accomplices were arrested in the Gangala and Azande hunting blocks. During the course of their patrols, law enforcement units confiscated 17 pieces of ivory weighing a total of 78 kg, four AK47s, an assortment of shotguns and rounds of ammunition and three bags of bush meat.
A new memorandum of understanding was signed with FARDC committing 26 soldiers to assist with patrols during May and June. This will bolster the capacity of the park's anti-poaching units after the older rangers retire.
Twenty two new nature clubs were set up at schools outside Garamba, bringing to 30 the number of clubs set up since the beginning of the year. In addition, wildlife films were screened in local communities reaching 3,500 junior and senior students. In order to reach adults as well as youngsters, environmental education programmes were broadcast on two local community radio stations focusing on the benefits of conservation for communities as well as threats to wildlife.
Tourism revenue for the quarter totaled US$17,110 and was derived from 38 visitors, various officials and an American film crew.
The deaths of Garamba's two rangers and the two members of the Congolese Armed Forces elicited widespread condemnation and outrage in the African and international media. The latter included the Washington Post, Fox News and CBS websites. Donations were subsequently received from various individuals that will be used to set up an education fund for the children of the men.