Rising incidents of poaching within the Greater Virunga Landscape has triggered fears among the countries sharing the ecosystem that is home to the Mountain Gorilla.
The follows two grisly discoveries within the first few days of February, where park rangers within the Greater Virunga Landscape discovered the bodies of a mountain gorilla killed by a poacher’s snare as well as that of an elephant.
The deadly act by unknown assailants has put the spotlight on poaching that had greatly declined in the area, according to the trans-boundary management body of the national parks.
According to Maxime Nzita Nganga, the Deputy Secretary in charge of community relations in the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC), poaching has increased recently, especially in deeper inaccessible parts of the vast park spreading over Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda.
“Every day, poaching is going on where people can’t see, deep in the forest or savannah beyond the public eye.
In these two cases, however, the tragic results of poaching can’t be ignored, and GVTC is taking up our mandated responsibility to reinforce trans-boundary anti-poaching mechanisms in the region,” Nganga said.
In an interview with The New Times, Rica Rwigamba, the Director of Tourism at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said the of killings of the gorilla and the elephant were deplorable and a danger to conservation.
“We extremely deplore such acts that threaten our conservation efforts within the Greater Virunga Massif. The problem of poaching is an issue we need to deal with urgently.
We are going to have an extraordinary meeting and find ways to deal with this issue which has been on the rise of recent, especially on the Congolese side. It is something we need to tackle jointly as countries which share the area,” Rwigamba underlined.
She noted that while most of the poaching is common on the Congolese side of the border, the concern is shared by all countries since poachers follow the pattern of the movement of animals.
Rwigamba said the two countries will intensify joint patrols to curb the illegal act.
The Greater Virunga Landscape incorporates Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda; and Kibale Conservation Area, Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area, and Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area in Uganda.
Rope or wire snares target antelopes and other small animals for bush meat.
To provide the magnitude of the issue, in the area where the dead mountain gorilla was found dead, is shared by Virunga National Park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, over 300 snares have been uncovered and destroyed over the last few months. In other areas, larger snares and traps are set for elephants and buffaloes.
Hippopotamus and elephants have been killed en mass for bush meat as well as ivory sold though the international black market.