For years, the elephant population has seen a sickening decline due to poaching activities, which result in thousands of killed animals, all for the sake of acquiring their tusks. This illegal ivory trade has seen an upward spike a decade ago, the worst that Africa has experienced since the '70s and '80s.
Government Agencies Need To Increase Effort To Curb Poaching Activities
Even with the effort of conservationists tightening their vigilance at guarding the elephants, poachers aren't deterred and are even increasingly penetrating wildlife reserves, according to the Panda. While governments, both local and international, are involving themselves in stopping the trade it still has a lot of room for improvement.
"Lack of political will is a key factor in the ongoing poaching of Central Africa's forest elephants," Lamine Sebogo, World Wildlife Fund African Elephant Program Leader, said. "The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has just given Gabon and Cameroon - two of the last bastions of forest elephants - 30 days to report on the progress of their national ivory action plans or face sanctions.
But all countries in the region must urgently ramp up efforts to save this species," the program leader added. While it seems that the elephants are on the losing side of this battle, a recent arrest of a significant individual has sparked some life into the movement of the animal's preservation, reported the New Yorker.
Park Rangers Capture Significant Player In The Ivory Trade
Earlier this year, a group of newly trained rangers was scouting the Ndoki River when they happened on a poachers' camp just at the edges of the park. Upon detection, the poachers opened fire with AK-47s.
The rangers immediately implemented small-unit tactics and quickly fanned the camp, firing back at the poachers as they did. The skirmish ended with the rangers taking over the encampment, recovering elephant tusks, high-powered weapons, and six empty magazine clips.
As they did not manage to capture the poachers, they promptly contacted a rapid-reaction unit to block roadways to limit possible escape routes. While the roadblock didn't apprehend the fleeing poachers, they did catch a man named Samuel Pembele.
Park officials say that Pembele plays a major role in one of the most notorious ivory-trafficking groups operating in Northern Congo, a group called 2Pac. Pembele will go on Trial on November 15 with charges of killing endangered species.
Mark Gatley, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Congo program, said that due to increasing pressure from poachers, Nouabalé-Ndoki had been forced to "professionalize and better arm the park's rangers." He also attributed the rangers' success as a result of having better equipment that allows real-time communication in the field.
Another reason would be the valiant effort of a new wildlife crime unit in Quesso helmed by Jean-Robert Onononga, a Congolese wildlife biologist. Onononga and his team conduct covert operations against poaching rings, as well as tracking court cases to ensure that the poachers come to justice.