Libreville – Upon arrival in Gabon on Wednesday, May 14, 2013, the President of the Central African Republic transition, SE Michel Djotodia was received by the President of Gabon, HE Ali Bongo Ondimba. Among other important issues discussed, including the important role of Gabonese troops in the regional peace keeping force, Michel Djotodia sought and obtained the support of Gabon to improve management of Central African Republic’s protected areas system, which is currently threatened by large-scale elephant poaching for ivory.
At least twenty-six elephants were killed in Dzanga Sangha National Park earlier this month in the forest of Dzanga Bai, a World Heritage site in the south-west of the Central African Republic. The Dzanga-Ndoki National Park contains the “Dzanga Bai”, which is a large forest clearing, unique in the world, where between 50 and 200 elephants gather daily to drink mineral salts present in the soil.
“The first time I visited Dzanga Bai, I was immediately captivated by the wonders one of the most fascinating natural wonders of the world,” said Professor Lee White, the Executive Secretary of ANPN. “This is one of those places that every human being should be able to see in his or her lifetime. It is officially recognized as a World Heritage Site, and our world would not be complete should we lose a global natural treasure such as the Dzanga Bai”, he continued.
In recent weeks this area drew intense poaching pressure as law and order in the country broke down. Some of these attacks may also have been the result of local poachers who took advantage of the situation.
A delegation from the ANPN led by Dr. Mike Fay, Special Adviser to the President of the Republic, a Senior Conservationist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Explorer in Residence at National Geographic Society, who participated in the classification of Dzanga –Ndoki National Park 30 years ago, was dispatched on Thursday 16 May to Bayanga, Central African Republic, to work with the government on a strategy to secure the area and restore conservation activities. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), The Aspinall Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) also participated in the mission.
The delegation reported this morning that security has returned. Government authorities in Bayanga are monitoring the situation closely and working with conservation staff to ensure no further poaching occurs.
“Now the work of restoring protection and augmenting capacity must be undertaken in earnest” said Dr. Richard Ruggiero of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “It is clear from our experience over the years that protecting elephants also protects people, since conservation hubs become islands of improved governance. International cooperation helps both people and wildlife.”
Share the experience of the National Parks Agency of Gabon
Cooperation between Gabon and the Central African Republic is intended to promote protected areas management and will address:
• The establishment of a legal and institutional framework to respond to the challenges posed by protected area development and management.
• Development of a National Parks Agency in CAR
• Training of staff working for the conservation and management of protected areas.
• Establishing improved relations with conservation programs in other countries of the Central African Region to share experiences, address cross-border poaching threats, and to develop beneficial collaborations with the global conservation community.
“This agreement is a great example of a ‘south / south cooperation'” said Professor Lee White. Africa has lost 70% of its forest elephants in 10 years and even in Gabon, where we have been less affected, 30% of our elephants have been killed during this period. We hope that we can help our colleagues in CAR to preserve Dzanga-Sangha, which is one of the most important protected areas in Africa and to restore the other protected areas that were once the countries pride and joy”.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba expressed the hope that regional institutions (ECCAS, COMIFAC, RAPAC) and Conservation NGOs will accompany Gabon and Central African Republic in responding to this challenge. “There is a clear link between blood ivory and civil instability in Africa, making this much more than just an environmental issue. We should all work together to restore sound governance in CAR, which will protect both its people and its spectacular wildlife”.