Five members from African Parks, including four rangers and the Park Manager, sustained injuries in a shootout with elephant poachers yesterday on April 23rd, 2016 in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is with sincere regret that we inform you that three of the Rangers, Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale, and Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli have since died. Ranger Dieudonné Kanisa Adrupiako and Park Manager Erik Mararv who both sustained gunshot wounds are now in stable condition.
Besides Dieudonné Tsago Matikuli whose body was recovered this morning, the other three Rangers and the Park Manager were evacuated by AFRICOM yesterday and flown to a US military base in Nzara, South Sudan. Two of the three Rangers were in critical condition and were stabilized prior to being transferred to a UN military hospital in Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Tragically however, Rigobert Anigobe Bagale and Richard Sungudikpio Ndingba died there today.
"We are devastated by this latest loss. Rangers put their lives on the line each and every day, and are under real siege in Garamba protecting elephants from heavily incentivized and militarized poaching gangs who threaten the very survival of humans and wildlife alike" said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. "Our heartfelt condolences are with the surviving family members of the rangers we have lost. We are extremely grateful to the support we have received from AFRICOM who provided for the timely evacuations and for the assistance of SANGARIS in CAR. We are doing everything possible to provide for all these men and their families during this very difficult time."
Elephants numbered around 22,000 in the late 1970's but today a fraction of their population remains. This is ground zero in the elephant poaching crisis, where elephants are slaughtered for their ivory tusks to be sold illegally by local and regional criminal networks. In 2015, Garamba tragically lost five ICCN guards and three members of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) who were killed by heavily-armed elephant poachers in three separate incidents.
African Parks has been managing Garamba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 2005 in partnership with the Institut Congolais pour La Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the DRC's official wildlife authority. The park, which is 4,900km2 and is part of the larger Garamba Complex of 12,500km2, is the last stronghold for elephants and giraffe in all of Congo.