U.S. Funds Combat Poachers of Congolese Rhinos, Elephants
WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2004 (ENS) - The Bush administration is sending $140,000 in emergency grants to help stop the illegal slaughter of elephants and the last 30 northern white rhinos in Garamba National Park. This World Heritage Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo along the border with Sudan is under seige by poachers who are killing animals and park rangers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awarding the grants to the nonprofit International Rhino Foundation, which is leading the effort to stop poaching by Sudanese marauders, known as "the horsemen," who kill the elephants and rhinos for ivory and horns for sale on the black market, said Interior Secretary Gale Norton announcing the grants on Monday.
"The Sudanese horseman have killed almost 1,000 elephants in the past year and are on the verge of eliminating the last wild population of northern white rhinos," Norton said. "The emergency grants will help train and equip park rangers and allow aerial surveillance by anti-poaching teams."
"These poachers are unscrupulous and violent, motivated by greed," Norton said. "They have systematically destroyed wildlife populations throughout the Central African savannas and now they are focusing on what's left in the Garamba National Park."
Garamba rangers have been overwhelmed by the heavily armed poachers, and two rangers have been killed while defending the park, said Norton.
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) says that on April 10 park guards had an armed encounter with poachers carrying loads on pack donkeys through the southwest of Garamba National Park.
"About 25 donkeys heavily laden with what must have included ivory and rhino horn and accompanied by four or five people on foot and one on horseback, were found moving rapidly north toward Sudan through the Domaine de Chasse Azande, on the western boundary of the park," the IRF said.
"Since then from both aerial reconnaissance and ground patrols, two rhinos and 12 elephants so far have been found freshly killed in this region that was the last remaining rhino concentration area," the IRF said. "Whole familes have been gunned down, with dead or dying calves lying next to their dead mothers and only the ivory or horn taken."
"If something isn't done immediately, the northern white rhino will probably be lost forever." said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. "We need to give the Garamba rangers the help they need to protect these rare animals."
The grants are being issued through the Service's "Wildlife Without Borders" program that administers funds appropriated by Congress for conservation of wild animals and their natural habitats.
A grant of $84,900 is being awarded under the African Elephant Conservation Fund; a second grant in the amount of $55,400 is being awarded from the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund. These grants cannot be used to purchase firearms.
The Service expects international conservation organizations and private donors to contribute as much as $150,000 in additional support.
The International Rhino Foundation is working in partnership with other organizations such as Conservation International, the International Elephant Foundation, Save the Rhino International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, the World Bank and UNESCO.
In 1980, Garamba National Park was established by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. In 1996, it was listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger.
The massacre of the last remaining northern white rhinos and the unique elephant population in Garamba "exploded in intensity" during 2003, the IRF said.
In mid-2003 the poachers switched from commercial meat poaching to ivory and rhino horn and "a sweep through the southern sector of the park focused on elephants and rhinos," the IRF said.
The use of pack animals now implies yet another level of organization, back up and distance in the poaching, the IRF believes. Donkeys and horses are not found locally because of tsetse fly. They were coming from Sudan and returning there.
Transborder poaching with pack animals has already been effective in wiping out wildlife populations in the Central African Republic and northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo. "It must be stopped immediately to save Garamba," the IRF said.
Today there are five species and 11 subspecies of rhinos surviving on earth. Two species - black and white - occur in Africa.
In the 19th century, according to WWF, which has been working to conserve the species, the northern white rhino had a wide distribution across the savannas of northern central Africa. As late as 1960, there were more than 2,000 remaining. But widespread poaching took its toll and by 1984 only about 15 individual northern white rhinos survived.
Northern white rhinos are now found only in Garamba National Park in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, although there are unconfirmed reports of a few survivors in southern Sudan, WWF says. Under a strict regime of protection in Garamba, northern white rhinos increased to 32 individuals in 1993, but there are now few survivors.
|International Hydropower Association accused of excluding indigenous peoples and supporting Taib’s corruption USCC Releases Model Rule for Composting Operations ADA Carbon Solutions Announces New Hire of Vice President of Sales and Key Executive Promotions|