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Elephants are vanishing from DRC's best-run reserve
Date:2/28/2013

2700 elephants. Despite this dramatic decline, OFR had fared much better than did other protected areas during the civil war. For example, in Salonga National Park, a huge area that once held the largest elephant population in DRC, WCS found that elephants had been decimated to less than 1,000 individuals. Thus, by 2007, OFR had DRC's largest remaining forest elephant population.

During the war, park guards could not protect much of OFR but were able to document elephant kills and ivory poaching. Since the end of the civil war, five years ago, park rangers have reduced the decline from approximately 400 to 170 elephants annually.

Despite this success, the park rangers cannot keep up with the dramatic increase in demand for ivory that is being fueled by economic growth in Asia, particularly China, and facilitated by increased access to previously remote forests. Ivory poaching is increasingly undertaken by highly organized, heavily armed criminal cartels.

Since this last census was conducted, insecurity in the OFR has become far worse. Rebels launched a deadly attack on the park headquarters in June 2012, killing park rangers and villagers and destroying park administrative buildings and equipment. The insecurity continues across the entire Ituri landscape with many villages, including Mambasa the largest and closest town, being attacked, dozens of people killed, and 30,000 displaced.

Despite these hard realities, OFR remains the most important site for the conservation of forest elephants and other large mammals in DRC. Additional results from recent surveys show that other wildlife in the reserve fared much better, including the highly important eastern chimpanzee population (approximately 6,000 individuals), okapi, and duikers (small forest antelopes), with almost no change in their estimated populations between 2007 and 2011.

WCS, in partnership with the DRC government's wildlife department (Institut Congol
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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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