Alarming figures have emerged from research carried out in the Eastern Congo, a region savaged by civil war and divided by militia ruled fiefdoms, denying the central government in Kinshasa full control or a part of the country rich in natural resources, both in the ground as well as above. The presence of the killer militias from the conflict in Rwanda too had played a serious role, as they, like others, are also accused of commercial style poaching for ivory, while in Garamba National Park it was the Ugandan rebels of ICC wanted Joseph Kony which is thought responsible for the extinction of the Northern White Rhino, that last free roaming population on record.
Moreover, biodiversity in general has taken a serious knock since the outbreak of civil war in Congo, first fought to dislodge Mobuto and then, when the late Kabila senior welshed on his erstwhile allies, a second round of war which made life for the populations and the wildlife even harsher. Conflict since then has never ended and pollution was added to the woes of this naturally gifted area when the rulers forced people into mining for coltan and other minerals, poisoning entire stretches of the environment through their greed and the total lack of safeguards and environmental mitigation measures.
Millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands died and alongside these atrocities did the numbers of elephant, estimated to be over 22.000 in Eastern Congo before the outbreak of civil strife, sink to as low as 6.000 according to the latest figures circulating amongst the conservation fraternity.
As the focus of the world moved to other hotspots, like the so called Arab Spring, the fight for survival of the wildlife, as well as the people of Eastern Congo persists, and with few reports now making the headlines, these tragic developments go largely unnoted.
Considering the price ivory now commands in the consumer markets of China and other Far Eastern countries, and of corrupt officials facilitating not just the poaching but also the smuggling of blood ivory out of the country to make its way through a pipeline of accomplices to the treasure cabinets of the nouvelle riche in the trade hubs of China, the future is bleak for the survival of the remaining elephant in Eastern Congo, unless a full rule of law can be restored and the protected areas in existence be truly protected from the greed of humans for the white gold.
Compiled by Jackie