AboutZoos, Since 2008


Gang raids Lusinga, Upemba National Park head­quar­ters (DR Congo)

pub­lished 27 July 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

As to prove that poach­ing is organ­ised crime Mai mai rebels, likely linked to poach­ers, raided the head­quar­ters of the remote Upemba National Park last week­end, reports the Frank­furt Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety (FZS) which is work­ing to reha­bil­i­tate the park in the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC). For­tu­nately, no one was injured in the raid, but equip­ment was stolen. The raid comes only a few weeks after a dif­fer­ent group of rebels mur­dered seven peo­ple and shot dead 13 cap­tive okapis at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.

These Mai Mai were look­ing for ICCN poach­ing reports in order to destroy them, so either they were poach­ers or they were con­nected to poach­ing. There is no ide­ol­ogy behind this move­ment, they are just rov­ing gangs, mind­ing only their inter­ests and prob­a­bly tak­ing advan­tage of the gen­eral insta­bil­ity in East­ern Congo to solid­ify their position
Radu Dumi­trascu, Pro­gram Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer with the FZS »

The Mai Mai rebels are left­overs from the DRC’s long civil wars. They arrived at the head­quar­ters heav­ily armed with machine guns and rocket pro­pelled grenades accord­ing to a blog on the attack. The blog can be found on the FZS’s web­site. FZS is work­ing in a pro­gramme called Call from the Wild to reha­bil­i­tate a num­ber of parks in the DRC, includ­ing Upemba, that have been dec­i­mated by decades of war and a boom­ing bush­meat trade.

Upemba National Park was once home to teem­ing herds of zebra, ele­phant, and ante­lope, in addi­tion to lions and rhi­nos. How­ever, decades of civil war and ram­pant poach­ing, left most of the park empty of ani­mals, though it still con­tains the DRC’s only herd of zebra.

Another exam­ple of what seems ongo­ing prac­tice hap­pened on Feb­ru­ary 26 this year, when three ele­phants were slaugh­tered in Kaboja, a town close to Upemba National Park. Accord­ing to the Con­golese wildlife author­ity one of the three slaugh­tered ele­phants was preg­nant. This bru­tal act was car­ried out by Con­golese mil­i­tary, led by a cap­tain. Fur­ther­more, he admited that he and his friends shared the ivory with the head of territory.

Ele­phants are pro­tected ani­mals here in the DRC and the killing of three of them could have unfor­tu­nate con­se­quences. As long as other ele­phants wit­nessed the slaugh­ter… they will either destroy crops or kill peo­ple on their way
« Felix Mbayo, head of the Con­golese wildlife author­ity (ICCN), Katanga province

Over 100 ele­phants have fled Upemba National Park to inac­ces­si­ble neigh­bour­ing areas around the park due to heavy poach­ing within the park in recent years. These ele­phants are now in seri­ous dan­ger as the vil­lage of Mbwe occu­pies the eco­log­i­cal cor­ri­dor and pre­vents the ani­mals from return­ing to their habi­tat. ICCN has made a call for sup­port from the Con­golese author­i­ties as well as the inter­na­tional con­ser­va­tion com­mu­nity to help bring ele­phants back into the park where they will be pro­tected. Oth­er­wise the last ele­phants of Katanga will sim­ply disappear.Elephants serengeti

Fur­ther­more, in 2004, Upemba Naitonal Park suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing attack from mai mai rebels who killed seven park rangers and one of their wives.

Dumis­trascu said the most recent raid on the head­quar­ters wouldn’t deter the group’s mis­sion. “FZS is deter­mined to con­tinue its work in Upemba National Park, we have made great progress over the last year in reha­bil­i­tat­ing the park’s infra­struc­ture and the Lusinga head­quar­ters and we con­tinue to believe that this park has great poten­tial in DRC. We will, how­ever, con­tinue to fol­low our secu­rity pro­to­cols and make sure that our staff is safe at all times.”

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at Mongabay and Call from the Wild. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Source: Mongabay, 26.07.2012; Call from the Wild, 06.05.2012)

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