Much has transpired over the past two months. There have been some really positive gains on numerous fronts including the birth of three lion cubs in Rwanda, more than 80 elephant calves under three years of age documented in Zakouma, and an unprecedented rise in wildlife sightings in Chinko. Sadly however, these gains are eclipsed by the tragedy in Garamba on April 23rd that left three rangers dead and two others wounded including our Park Manager, Erik Mararv, from a shootout with elephant poachers. The support received from AFRICOM and MONUSCO as well as from many of you, was as always critical and deeply moving. Our focus has been directed at getting the injured and the surviving family members the help and assistance needed, as well as in mobilizing human, technical and financial resources to fight the battle for Garamba at a different level. Poaching has escalated dramatically in the past few months and these armed men, mainly from South Sudan and the LRA, are more determined than ever as we tragically lost 40 elephants in Garamba over March and April. We are working on additional staffing, zeroing in on military tactics, and ramping up efforts to better equip our men in this battle that is claiming both human and elephant lives. These are trying times but we thank you for your steadfast support. We are determined to turn this story around and to realize a future where DRC’s wildlife and the local people who share this landscape can exist without the crippling impacts of these destabilizing forces.
The last few months have been trying to say the least, with the heartbreaking loss of rangers who are fighting poachers who will stop at nothing until the last elephant has been shot. This threat is not easing up and our investment and strategies need to be greater and smarter, and more advanced to provide the needed protection of both humans and wildlife. To this end, we just concluded a two-day ‘think tank’ in Johannesburg with our major stakeholders for Garamba to create a united front, and align our resources to not just gain ground, but surpass our prior efforts and fight this battle with the appropriate counter forces needed.
On a positive note, the life we’re seeing in Akagera with the new lion cubs, the elephant calves in Zakouma, the growing herds of eland in Chinko, and the unprecedented move of 500 elephants in Malawi beginning in July, is cause for optimism. We are moving forward in our vision of securing vast areas, protecting some of the continent’s most iconic species, and providing safety for people and wildlife alike. Even in these darkest of times we are not just seeing progress, thanks to your commitment and collaboration, we’re seeing new life.
With best wishes,