... - Garamba, ..., DRC [2012 © Nuria Ortega]Elephant collaring  - Garamba, ..., DRC [2011 © Nuria Ortega]Aerial view of Garamba through the clouds - Garamba, ..., DRC [2012 © Nuria Ortega]photo - Garamba, ..., ?MIX [2010 © Nuria Ortega]Garamba Guest Lodge dining area - Garamba, ..., DRC [2011 © Nuria Ortega]... - Garamba, ..., DRC [2008 © Nuria Ortega]

Garamba National Park, DRC

Achievements

On 12 November 2005, African Parks, in partnership with the Congolais Pour La Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), officially assumed management responsibility for Garamba. One of the oldest and mist well-known National Parks in Africa, Garamba National Park is one of Africa's last true wilderness areas. Established in 1938, Garamba was one of the first National Parks in Africa, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Situated in the north eastern corner of the Democratic Republic of thew Congo, adjacent to the Sudanese border, Garamba adjoins Sudan's Lantoto National Park and is surrounded in the south, east and west by three domaines de chasse hunting areas, the park's northern border is the watershed of the Nile and Congo Rivers.

Garamba National Park, DRC - African Parks - Law-enforcement - Garamba National Park , DRC [2012 © David Santiago Garcia]

 • Garamba was severely impacted by the elephant poaching crisis in 2012 and continues to be a challenge. Not only were local and Sudanese poachers more active, but there was increasing evidence of the LRA’s involvement in ivory poaching and trading. Over a period of five months, more than 50 elephants were killed in the park. In mid-March, a major elephant poaching incident occurred when 22 elephants were killed in the park and their tusks and male genitalia removed. Forensic investigations proved that the elephants had been shot by helicopter, with at least 15 of the elephants killed with a single shot to the top of the head. In the weeks after the incident, a Ugandan Defence Force (UPDF) helicopter was twice observed flying at low-level in the park. Although unauthorised to fly in the DRC, the UPDF has denied any involvement in the poaching incident which remains unsolved.


• In June, a 50-strong LRA group attacked our rangers and an hour-long battle ensued. Several LRA militants were injured whilst our scouts managed to retreat without injury. A substantial LRA camp was subsequently discovered in the park accommodating over 100 LRA men, women and children. In the wake of this incident, the Congolese army (FARDC) sent 32 soldiers to reinforce patrols whilst the UN’s MONUSCO forces sent 15 soldiers to assist with security at Nagero. With this increased activity, the LRA camp was abandoned and the rebels retreated possibly to the adjoining Azande Domaine de Chasse (hunting zone).


• In the face of such increased threats, a security consultant was engaged in 2012 to conduct an advanced anti-poaching course for 80 Garamba rangers. On completing the course, 35 rangers were selected to form an elite Rapid Response Unit that will be deployed to combat poaching and security threats. Ground patrols are now being carried out to the north of the Garamba River in an effort to reduce poaching and security incidents within the park.


• Forty new rangers were recruited and trained during the last quarter of 2013 and deployed into the field, increasing the total ranger complement to 180 and expanding the scope of anti-poaching activities. The year was marked by numerous encounters with poachers, comprising members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Sudanese, Congolese armed forces and Congolese civilians.


• The park management plan was validated in 2012 by our government partner, ICCN, enabling us to continue with infrastructural developments and improvements to the park. Almost 500km of tracks were reopened and for the first time in several years, the Garamba River was able to be traversed.


• During the year we completed the construction of a major school and the new Nagero Hospital. A water system was provided in the staff camp and new staff houses were finally completed. For the previous four years, staff had been living in tents following the LRA attack on headquarters in January 2009. 


• Houses for volunteers were also completed, along with the conversion of the old warden’s house to office, a new house for the warden, and a start on building 40 rangers’ houses. A new truck was acquired to alleviate transport difficulties and reduce transport costs.  


• Aerial surveillance, vital to the park’s anti-poaching effort, resumed after six months of repair work was completed on the Garamba aircraft. A new Canadian pilot joined the park team who is qualified to fly both the Cessna and the micro-light. 


• An aerial census confirmed that, whilst numbers of most animal species have risen, the elephant population has declined. It is estimated that there are now just over 1,400 elephants in the core park area. 


• Tracking collars were fitted to five giraffe, one elephant and one lion in order to monitor their movements in 2012. One of the collared giraffe was unfortunately killed, however the poachers kept the satellite collar, enabling them to be tracked over the border where they were apprehended by the South Sudanese authorities. 


• Tracking collars were fitted to eight elephants in 2013 which revealed that most of the collared elephants remained in the south of the park. 


• Several new chimpanzee nests were identified by the research group operating in the Mondo Misa Domaine de Chasse and camera trap images were recorded of individuals.


• The third annual carnivore census was completed and showed a healthy increase in the lion numbers from 65 in the previous census to 80 in 2013. Results of a floral study, undertaken in 2013, will be included in an updated park vegetation map. 


• The year culminated with tour agreement to collaborate with a regional education institution set up by the government, UNESCO and ten African countries, to conduct biodiversity research programmes to study the mammal species, vegetation distribution, and socio-economic dynamics of the park.


• The new Nagero Hospital opened in early 2013 providing proper medical care for local people for the first time and marks a major milestone in Garamba’s community programme. More than 5,00 people were treated or made use of the medical facilities.

 
• At the end of the year, we launched a polio vaccination campaign for infants in the villages of Nagero, Route 4 and Yanguma. We also recruited a doctor who is able to perform complex surgery at the new hospital. 


• More than 3000 children and adults from schools, women’s cooperatives and local associations participated in Garamba’s environmental education programme. 


• Several community development projects were set up, including teak reforestation at two villages, bee-keeping initiatives, the deployment of 90 brick-making machines and school construction programmes.


• Garamba received worldwide publicity following a New York Times and International Herald Tribune front page article on the park’s elephant poaching onslaught. The article was syndicated in over 50 publications around the globe in August, placing Garamba firmly under the international spotlight. 


• The Australian Broadcasting Corporation made a TV documentary about Garamba’s poaching challenges and various Government and NGO representatives visited the park to research the poaching activities of the LRA. As a result visitor numbers were higher than in previous years. Concerns regarding stability and security prevail, yet those tourists who visit the park are exposed to spectacular wildlife and scenery, as well as having the opportunity to participate in research activities in the park.


Garamba National Park, DRC - African Parks - Elephants playing in water - Garamba, DRC [2012 © David Santiago Garcia]
The year was extremely challenging for Garamba, characterised by an increasing poaching onslaught on the park, particularly against its elephants. Several elephants were collared in order to monitor elephant movements and inform anti-poaching activities; however the increasing price of ivory led to poachers taking greater risks to kill elephants. Steps were taken to address deficiencies within the current law enforcement team and 40 new rangers were recruited and trained towards the end of the year.
 
Garamba National Park, DRC - African Parks - African Parks launches anti-poaching fund - Garamba, DRC [2012 © Herald Tribune]