Poachers Invade Research Centre in World Heritage Site

Last week we reported how, in the wake of the political crises currently gripping the Central African Republic, elephant poachers are overrunning Dzanga-Sangha Reserve in the country’s southwest.

The Reserve is perhaps best known for Dzanga Bai, locally known as ‘the village of elephants’, a forest clearing containing mineral rich deposits visited by between 40 and 100 forest elephants daily. Tragically, on Monday this week, armed men claiming to be part of Central African Republic's transitional government reportedly entered the Reserve, gained access to the observation platform used by researchers at the bai’s periphery and began shooting in the direction of elephants.

This news comes hot on the heels of concerns and recommendations for greater inter-ministerial and trans-boundary collaboration made by some of Central Africa’s most prominent conservation organisations who met at the end of March to discuss the region’s escalating elephant poaching crisis being driven by demand for ivory in the Far East.

As the true gravity of the situation in Dzanga Bai unfolds, the Born Free Foundation is calling for swift action from the region’s governments, the elimination of domestic ivory markets in Asia and for a stabilisation of the political situation in CAR through the intervention of the international community. 

 

Further info on Dzangha-Sangha Reserve:
Situated in the northwest of the Congo Basin, Dzanga-Sangha Reserve spans over 6,800 km2 across the borders of CAR, Cameroon and Republic of Congo. It forms part of Sangha Trinational, the UNESCO World Heritage Site with rainforests home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, bongo antelopes, honey badgers and  leopards. A thriving local culture composed of Sangha Sangha fishermen and the hunter gatherer Ba’Aka people adds to this rich fabric and led to the establishment of a thriving local eco-tourism industry bringing much needed income into the area, but currently suspended due to political instability.

Dzanga Bai was the site of the first study of forest elephants in 1990. Since then, more than 4,000 individuals have been identified and the site has developed into a critical research centre, advancing our understanding of the population structure, communication and social behaviour of forest elephants.
 

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