Following the stark news from the lowland tourism forest around Ituri, that militias had vented their anger and frustration on the ICCN headquarters in Epulu with a large scale attack, killing at least 6 staff or family members back in June, little seems to have changed for those on the ground, still under daily threat for their own safety and the safety of the animals. The over 100 personnel attached to the ICCN offices fled in terror, as the killers then set out to rape any woman still in sight before ransacking and looting the offices, finally torching buildings before leaving the scene. Up to now, from reports received, little if anything has changed for the survivors of the gruesome attack.
Ranger killings, even at the Virunga National Park, have become only too common by militias fighting regime troops or battling amongst themselves for control of mineral rich areas where slave mining is then introduced, seriously affecting the country’s ability to protect and preserve its precious wildlife.
At Epulu, in addition to wreaking the havoc already described, to the shock of the global conservation fraternity at the time, the internationally acclaimed and renowned Okapi Conservation Project was also wiped out as the goons mowed down the helpless animals held in shelters. 13 of the rare animals were killed and at least one more injured, leaving years of conservation work in tatters and ruins.
It is understood that the Okapi reserve was in fact put on the UNESCO World Heritage list some 15 years ago and declared ‘endangered’ not long afterwards. Combined with the regime’s responsibility to have the last population of the Northern White rhinos wiped out in Garamba National Park, when a ministerial ‘NJET’ at the very last moment brought the rescue to a halt, as an airlift was just about to go underway to bring the animals to the safety of a Kenyan conservancy, this leaves any resemblance of Congo’s commitment to wildlife conservation in doubt if not shreds.
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