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Elephants, large mammals recover from poaching in Africa's oldest national park

ximately 3,800 buffalo (up from 2,300 in 2003). Uganda kob--a type of antelope--now number nearly 13,000, almost the same level for the species before significant poaching began in the 1960s.

Efforts to curb poaching have come with a high cost over the past few years. Over 100 park guards in Virunga Park have been killed since 1996 while trying to prevent poaching, and one was killed as recently as May 2006. Currently, park guards receive only $1 per month as a salary from the government, although this amount was recently increased up to $30 per month with funds from UNESCO from 2002-2005. Additional support for the park guards will come from the European Union through the Zoological Society of London in the near future.

Virunga National Park has been the major destination for tourists in the DRC since it was created, but recent unrest over the past decade has resulted in a decrease in tourism dollars as well as wildlife. Tourism in the region has the potential to generate significant revenues for the parks and the country. In Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, the tourism business has generated millions of dollars, not only for the parks but also for local communities throughout the region.

"Virunga Park will be the key to any tourism industry in Congo with its large mammals, gorillas, active volcanoes and biodiversity. It is clear that Congo needs to invest in the future of this park if they are to realize any of the benefits of tourism in future," said Dr Andrew Plumptre of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "It is also clear that park guards will need continued support if the park is to show an increase in the large mammal populations in future."


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Source:Wildlife Conservation Society


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