Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic site

mongabay.com
May 18, 2013



Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

According to the conservation group, Michel Djotodia, acting president of the Central African Republic (CAR) transitional government, and Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba met on May 14 to discuss a variety of issues, including the worsening ivory poaching situation in CAR. Earlier this month at least 26 elephants were killed at Dzanga Bai, a site that lies in CAR's portion of Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and is famed for its high density of endangered forest elephants. The slaughter occurred after rangers abandoned their post due to violence in the area.

Elephants massacred for ivory in Central African Republic

(05/10/2013) Dozens of elephants have been slaughtered in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic just days after conservationists warned about an impending threat from the movement of 17 heavily armed poachers. The massacre occurred at a site renowned as 'village of elephants', where tourists and scientists have for decades observed wild elephants congregating at a large clearing to feed on minerals.
After the meeting, Gabon dispatched a group led by Mike Fay, a legendary conservationist who led an epic walk across the Congo rainforest in 1999-2000, to CAR to work with the government to secure Dzanga Bai and resume conservation activities. Conservation staff have now returned to the site, according to WCS.

“The good news from Dzanga-Sangha National Park after reports of extensive elephant poaching comes as a huge relief, along with the agreement that Gabon and the Central African Republic have agreed to work together to improve management of CAR’s protected areas," said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper. "We offer our appreciation to the leadership being shown by acting president of the Central African Republic transitional government, Michel Djotodia, and to President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba."

Under the agreement between the two countries, Gabon will assist CAR in developing a national parks agency, training staff in conservation and management of protected areas, and establishing "a legal and institutional framework" for protected areas development and management. The initiative will also aim to improve coordination between cross-border conservation programs in neighboring Congo basin countries.


Forest elephant in Gabon. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

President Ali Bongo said he hoped the regional institutions as well as international NGO would join Gabon and CAR addressing the issues that have spurred a surge in ivory poaching.

"There is a clear link between blood ivory and civil instability in Africa, making this much more than just an environmental issue," the president said in a statement. "We should all work together to restore sound governance in CAR, which will protect both its people and its spectacular wildlife."

Lee White, Executive Secretary of Gabon's National Parks Agency (ANPN), said that the developments over the past few days mark a rare bit of good news on the elephant poaching front in Central Africa.

“This agreement is a great example of a ‘south / south cooperation’” said Lee White, Executive Secretary of Gabon's National Parks Agency (ANPN). “Africa has lost 70% of its forest elephants in 10 years and even in Gabon, where we have been less affected, 30% of our elephants have been killed during this period. We hope that we can help our colleagues in CAR to preserve Dzanga-Sangha, which is one of the most important protected areas in Africa and to restore the other protected areas that were once the countries pride and joy.”

Elephant poaching has surged in recent years due to growing demand for ivory in East Asia. More than 35,000 elephants were killed last year for their tusks, according to some estimates. Central Africa has been particularly hard hit, with the region's forest elephant population declining more than 60 percent in the past decade.











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Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic site.

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