Carcasses of three elephants stripped of their tusks, probably poisoned, were recently discovered in Virunga National Park in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a local NGO announced on Tuesday.
“All the remains of the poached elephants have the same characteristics: they are mutilated and their tusks are removed, but they bear no sign of bullets. Near the elephants fieldworkers of IDPE found 10 bodies of vultures, which had no impact of bullets either. The vultures probably came to feed on the remains of the elephants. This probably means the elephants have been poisoned”, said representatives of Innovation for Development and Environmental Protection (IDPE) in a letter to the governor of the province of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, and to the Congolese President Joseph Kabila.
According to IDPE, two of the three dead elephants were discovered last May 10 to Kagezi, a town near the border with Uganda and the third on May 14 , two kilometres from the fishery village Nyakakoma. GPS coordinates of the killed elephants have been taken.
Nyakakoma is in a highly militarised zone of Virunga National Park. This area is controlled by a unit of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), which secures the oil exploration activities on Lake Edward by oil company SOCO International (United Kingdom).
Bantu Lukambo of IDPE says: “The consistent and persistent reports suggest that poachers prevalent in the area of the Virunga National Park have adopted new strategies to achieve their dirty work: killing animals with poisoned bait in order to obtain the ivory tusks”.
Wildlife poisoning is extremely harmful. It will not only destroy the target animals, but also all the scavengers as well as migratory birds of prey nesting in the same area.
“There is a very high risk that the high dose of poison used to kill large animals like the elephant will infect all parts of the food chain through rainwater drained into the local river system”, adds IDPE. It is also a risk to everyone who eats bushmeat, as the trade has increased in this area.
According to the NGO, thirty elephants were also missing between April and May in the Garamba National Park in the neighbouring Orientale Province in DRC.
This coincidence of events is not a coincidence: “There is increased trafficking of ivory confirming our deep fears of a planned extermination of elephants in protected areas like Virunga National Park”, says Bantu Lukambo of IDPE.
IDPE asked the Governor of North Kivu to conduct an independent investigation.
Virunga Park management started an investigation into what they perceive to be a trafficking ivory network.