Rangers from the Government of the DRC’s (Democratic Republic of Congo) ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la conservation de la nature) and Garamba National Park, managed by the conservation NGO African Parks, have intercepted an attempt to traffic 73 kilograms of illicit Giant Pangolin scales. This significant bust follows on the heels of CITES CoP17, where DRC voted to up-list pangolins to Appendix I, contributing to the ban on their commercial trade. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked group of animals and are rapidly disappearing from their remaining habitats.
The scales of approximately 20 poached pangolins were discovered in a truck during a routine check at a control post, which first revealed two pieces of ivory. Suspicions were raised by intelligence received from Garamba National Park, leading rangers to conduct a full search of the vehicle where they subsequently uncovered and seized the large haul of scales and arrested the two individuals responsible for transporting them. They have since been transferred to a court in Dungu, where they will soon face trial. In the absence of accompanying bushmeat, the items are suspected to have been destined for the international market.
An unprecedented demand for animal products is driving many species towards extinction, and traffickers are increasingly targeting species in Africa as populations of pangolins plummet in Asia. The Giant Pangolin is a protected species in the DRC, which has sought to advance international legislation for pangolin protection. “DRC is one of three African countries that contains all four species of African pangolins,” ICCN Director General Cosma Wilungula said, “and at the 17th Conference of the Parties of CITES in South Africa, DRC backed and voted for the up-listing of all pangolin species to Appendix I of CITES.”
The DRC and its parks are on the frontline of Africa’s battle to combat poaching that is decimating its wildlife at unprecedented rates across the continent. Garamba National Park, managed by African Parks since 2005, is targeted by militarised poaching groups and is working extensively alongside communities and government to improve the protection of the park’s wildlife, its resources and local communities. "Road controls are just one of the ways that African Parks is able to contribute to the security of people and wildlife,” says Naftali Honig, the Intelligence Manager for Garamba. “Traffickers smuggle wildlife on the same roads used by groups involved in human conflict, so securing the park means working towards a more peaceful and sustainable future."
About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force for any one NGO in Africa, more than 800 rangers on staff, and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries covering six million hectares: Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad. Visit www.african-parks.org to learn more.