Traffic: Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking Prevalent Across Central Africa’s Garamba-Bili-Chinko Landscape
Foreign armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Janjaweed (a Sudanese militia), and other non-State militias, are the main perpetrators of wildlife poaching and trafficking across Central Africa’s Garamba-Bili-Chinko Landscape, a region that straddles the northwest border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the southwest border of the Central African Republic, according to a new TRAFFIC report.
The investigation into the poaching and trafficking of wildlife across the landscape—comprised of the Garamba complex and the Bili complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Chinko reserve in the Central African Republic—reveals the enormous pressure placed on existing wildlife populations in these protected areas, particularly from such highly organized armed groups who are linked to human rights violations and ongoing political instability.
The report, “An Assessment of Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking in the Garamba-Bili-Chinko Transboundary Landscape,” produced by TRAFFIC with fieldwork carried out by IUCN as part of the USAID-funded Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project, is the product of research and discussions in 87 local villages with over 700 people, including administrative authorities, traditional leaders, and law enforcement officers. The authors investigated hunting, poaching and trafficking at various levels—from small-scale subsistence hunting to large-scale organized poaching and smuggling—while also assessing the livelihoods and economic opportunities for local villagers and nomadic herders.
The report found that poaching is prevalent throughout the region, with the principal actors implicated being non-State armed groups, State actors, armed pastoralists, and independent poachers.
- Non-State armed groups: Foreign armed groups, including the LRA, the Janjaweed, and other non-State militias, are the main perpetrators of poaching and trafficking across the landscape, targeting large mammals, including Bongo, Buffalo, Elephant, and Hippopotamus. The LRA, in particular, has put enormous pressure on Elephant populations over the past decade. In 2015, watch organizations reported that LRA leader Joseph Kony tasked a group of LRA fighters with obtaining 100 tusks from the Garamba complex over the course of nine months.
- State actors: Corruption in the region is a major impediment to effective law enforcement. State and local authorities, including FARDC (the DRC State military), have been implicated in direct poaching or the facilitation of poaching and trafficking. Since the area has been affected by civil war, it is rumored that some local leaders and chiefs have increased their involvement in illegal activities. In contrast, reports from the field indicate poaching by FARDC soldiers has been declining in the past few years due to stronger collaboration with park enforcement authorities.
- Armed pastoralists: Some nomadic Fulani cattle-herders pose a major threat to wildlife in the landscape. Often heavily armed for protection, Fulani and the Mbororo (a Fulani sub-group) are known to kill Giant Eland and Buffalo to sell as bushmeat and to poison predators, such as Lions, to prevent attacks on their cattle. Fulani have also been reported as trafficking wildlife products such as ivory and leopard skins across borders, primarily to South Sudan and Uganda.
- Independent poachers: According to key informants, there is an independent militarized poaching network targeting large mammals, including Bongo, Buffalo, Elephant and Hippopotamus in the protected areas. These poachers sell the meat to individuals and restaurants in peripheral villages and towns, and transport high-value products, such as ivory, skins and other trophies to larger towns and cities to continue funding their poaching efforts. This group is made up of both local and foreign actors armed with semi-automatic weapons.
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