Protectors of wildlife in war-torn Congo recognized with new Award
June 1, 2005
Abraham Prize Awarded to Families of Murdered Guards, Survivors of Poaching, Rebel Attacks; UNESCO World Heritage Site Parks Still Under Siege
New York, June 1, 2005: — Within the parks of the Congo Basin, environmentalism is more than just conservation of wildlife – it’s a matter of survival for the guards, wardens and forest park rangers risking their lives to protect some of the world’s richest ecosystems. Five of those men were honored today with the Abraham Conservation Award in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. The Alexander Abraham Foundation joined the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Congolese Institute for the Protection of Nature (ICCN) in paying tribute to the winners of the first Abraham Conservation Awards to be given in Africa.
The recipients are:
- Norbert Mushenzi, Director, Congolese National Parks Institute
- Paluku Kavene, ICCN park guard
- Bernard Iyomi, Conservateur Principal, head of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park
- Nakalonge Mpangaza II, Mwami, Chef de Collective de Kalonge
- Jean Nlamba, Conservateur en Chef, Réserve de Faune à Okapi (award received posthumously by Mr. Nlamba’s wife)
The ceremony is one of three taking place across the Democratic Republic of Congo over the next week. In total, 30 individuals, many of whom have been attacked and injured by poachers, bandits and rebel militants, will be recognized. Also, 17 widows and wives of guards and wardens who have been murdered or captured while trying to protect the park will receive awards on their husbands’ behalf.
“The bravery, dedication and extraordinary heroism of the year’s recipients of the Abraham Conservation Award is incredible,” said Nancy Abraham, president of the New York-based Alexander Abraham Foundation. “In face of danger and threats, these individuals risked their lives to protect these parks and their wildlife that has no voice of its own.”
The Abraham Awards program focuses on the individuals whose actions to protect indigenous wildlife and wildlife parks – often in the face of personal danger – might not otherwise be recognized. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, that has translated into gunshot wounds, bayonet and machete stabbings, loss of sight and limbs, and the torture, kidnapping and in some cases, murder of park protectors and members of their families.
“These awards are one step that may help bring to the world’s attention the plight of these guards and the risks that they take,” said John Hart, senior conservation scientist of the WCS program in the DRC. “In a country still crippled by the legacy of war, these parks and their protectors will only be sustained by substantial and consistent foreign investment. We have an obligation to help shoulder the burden of protecting the world’s natural heritage by supporting these environmental heroes.”
The award recipients serve as protectors of Upemba National Park as well as of the five endangered Congolese World Heritage Sites — the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and the National Parks of Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga. As Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga was placed on the World Heritage Sites in danger in 1992 due to the effects of the war in neighboring Rwanda and the subsequent influx of refugees.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to endangered species such as bonobo (or “pygmy” ) chimpanzees, wild okapis, most of the surviving mountain gorillas, all of the eastern lowland gorillas and the last surviving northern white rhinoceros. Many of these endangered Protected Areas are in the eastern third of the country, straddling the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan;they have been devastated by armed conflict and by commercial poaching for bushmeat, ivory, skins, horns and for sale as pets. Beyond poaching, the territory and its wildlife have been devastated by poverty, mining, and refugees who have moved into parkland, killing endangered animals and destroying their habitat.
About the Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild lands. We do so through careful science, international conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together, these activities change individual attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in sustainable interaction on both a local and a global scale. WCS is committed to this work because we believe it essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
About the Alexander Abraham Foundation
The Alexander Abraham Foundation (AAF) is devoted to protecting wildlife and the environment, and to promoting animal welfare. AAF’s mission is to preserve wild populations of animals and threatened ecosystems, support sustainable approaches that encourage the preservation endangered species and life in harmony with nature, and to promote animal welfare. It accomplishes this through the support of non-profit organizations by providing them with grants for general operating support or for specific projects.
Okapi, other wildlife saved in the Congo by forest protector
Corneille Ewango of the Wildlife Conservation Society today received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for risking his life helping to protect one of Africa’s environmental gems—the Okapi Faunal Reserve—from the depredations of rebel militias in the wartorn region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Contact: Aparna Swarts 232 E. 62nd Street, NY, NY 10021
Email: Aparna – AT – aabrahamfoundation. org