GARAMBA NATIONAL PARK WAS ESTABLISHED BY BELGIAN ROYAL DECREE IN 1938 AND BECAME ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL PARKS IN AFRICA. GARAMBA WAS PROCLAIMED A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN 1980.
Garamba was listed as a “World Heritage In Danger” in 1996 due to the threat to the remaining northern white rhino, although the species is now presumed to be extinct. In the late 1970s, Garamba’s wildlife came under immense pressure, predominantly from commercial Sudanese poachers. During this period, elephant numbers dropped from an estimated 22,000 to only 5,000 individuals. This decimation of the elephant population has continued as a result of civil war, undisciplined Congolese soldiers and foreign troops, deserters from the South Sudanese army and poachers. To add to Garamba’s difficulties, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan terrorist group, progressively pushed into Southern Sudan and started using Garamba as a safe haven out of reach of the Ugandan army.
The expansive park, with its savannah plains and dense forest, is 4,900 km² and comprises part of the larger Garamba Complex of 12,500 km². This area is the last stronghold for elephant and giraffe in all of Congo. Garamba is on the frontlines of the poaching crisis and tremendous efforts were made in 2015 to increase patrol and surveillance area, resulting in enforcement area from 30 to 100 percent of the park.
By 2005, financing for Garamba was virtually non-existent. Living conditions for employees and their families were not only difficult, they were dangerous. The supply of basic goods and necessities were impossible to find, infrastructure was in disrepair and roads and airfields were overgrown.
As a result, the majority of the ranger outposts had long been abandoned. It is within this environment African Parks and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature entered into a partnership to manage the park.
The park has expanded its sphere of influence so that it is now in control of the entire park. This is largely due to the purchase of a helicopter and the reopening of 100 km of roads.
Significant numbers of rangers have been recruited and trained in various law enforcement skills. Some of these rangers were selected to form a rapid reaction force.
The park’s critically endangered Kordofan giraffe have been fitted with harnesses (or collars - GPS tracking devices) to follow their movements.
Increased aerial surveillance and a new digital communications systems has enhanced the effectiveness of anti-poaching measures.
WITH VAST UNDULATING GRASSLAND SAVANNAH AND DENSE DRY FOREST, GARAMBA IS ONE OF THE OLDEST AND MOST WELL-KNOWN NATIONAL PARKS IN AFRICA AND HOME TO THE ONLY NOTABLE ELEPHANT AND GIRAFFE POPULATIONS IN THE REGION.
The southern part of the park is predominantly grassland savannah with scattered trees. Further north the vegetation is mainly mixed woodland, with dense dry forests and riverine and small swamp forests. In contrast, the hunting areas are predominantly dense bush savannah, mixed deciduous woodland and forests.
With abundant food and water resources, Garamba provides excellent habitat for elephant, hippo, buffalo and Uganda kob, whilst less common species such as giraffe and roan antelope, although rare, can also be found.
The species that roam Garamba are notably spotted hyaena, leopard, lion, serval amongst several others.
These include the Guereza colobus, Patas monkey, vervet monkey, the De Brazza’s monkey and the chimpanzee.
Hippopotamus and Nile buffalo are the two most prolific species in Garamba. Other species found in the park includes a variety of hogs, such as the red river hog and warthog.
Many large antelope species remain in Garamba and its surrounding hunting areas, including bushbuck, waterbuck, Ugandan kob, Lelwel’s hartebeest, roan antelope and bongo.
Several species of duiker, notably blue duiker, red-flanked duiker and yellow backed duiker, occur in Garamba, as well as oribi.
BIRD DIVERSITY IS HIGH WITH MORE THAN 340 SPECIES RECORDED.
Spectacular colonies of carmine bee-eaters are common along the banks of the River Dungu and clouds of cattle egret can be seen circling over the large herds of buffalo.
Garamba’s elephant are being poached at an alarming rate and the park is experiencing a negative population growth. In addition, the Kordofan giraffe is critically endangered, with only a handful remaining in the park.
For a long time, research and monitoring in Garamba concentrated mainly on the population dynamics of the northern white rhino and, to a lesser extent, elephant and giraffe. However these operations were halted in February 2005 when expatriate staff from a previous project left the park. As a result, what was known about the wildlife populations became increasingly outdated. Since then, Garamba has embarked on several monitoring programmes, fitting tracking devices to giraffe and elephant to learn more about their movements.
Garamba is home to the only remaining Kordofan giraffe population in the DRC, however their numbers have plummeted due to poaching, but also other causes such as high levels of predation and forage limitation. To gather more information on these critically endangered Kordofan giraffe and follow their movements, they have been fitted with satellite tracking harnesses.
|Guereza colobus||Colobus guereza|
|Patas monkey||Erythrocebus patas|
|Vervet monkey||Chlorocebus pygerythrus|
|De Brazza’s monkey||Cercopithecus neglectus|
|Blue duiker||Philantomba monticola|
|Red-flanked duiker||Cephalophus rufilatus|
|Yellow backed duiker||Cephalophus silvicultor|
|Uganda kob||Kobus kob thomasi|
|Lelwel’s hartebeest||Alcelaphus buselaphus lelwel|
|Roan antelope||Hippotragus equinus|
|Red river hog||Potamochoerus porcus|
|Nile Buffalo||Syncerus caffer aequinoctialis|
|Kordofan giraffe||Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum|
FROM THE START OF THE PROJECT, COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT HAS FORMED A MAJOR COMPONENT OF GARAMBA’S VISION, AND AS SUCH, A COMMUNITY CONSERVATION PROGRAMME WAS LAUNCHED IN 2005.
A large number of local people are employed at Garamba including several dedicated community personnel who have been recruited, trained and deployed to work directly with the people who live in the neighbouring villages.
Environmental education in local community schools has been a huge success, with thousands of schoolchildren and their teachers learning about conservation through guided park visits, school lessons, brochures and films. The park built a brand new school in 2012, which has gone a long way in improving the standard of educational facilities in the region.
THOUSANDS OF SCHOOLCHILDREN AND THEIR TEACHERS LEARN ABOUT CONSERVATION THROUGH GUIDED PARK VISITS, SCHOOL LESSONS, BROCHURES AND FILMS.
A number of initiatives have been put in place in order to diversify livelihoods and create sustainable sources of income for the communities that live in the areas surrounding Garamba. These have included programmes focused on training in agriculture, bee-keeping, fish farming, reforestation and animal husbandry programmes, to name just a few.
Infrastructure projects have also gone a long way in improving communities’ access to essential services, such as the construction of Nagero hospital just outside the park.
The construction of a fully equipped hospital outside the park has made a big difference in the lives of the local communities, providing them with proper medical care for the first time. The hospital building opened in 2013, and alongside this initiative, the procurement of medical supplies and equipment has meant hospital staff can perform surgeries and laboratory tests on-site. Park staff and their families receive free medical care and medication, while people in the surrounding community receive free consultations and medicines at purchase price.
GARAMBA IS SITUATED IN ONE OF THE MOST HOSTILE AREAS IN AFRICA.
This is largely due to a challenging combination of highly armed poachers and various terrorist and guerrilla groups, all of whom view the wildlife in Garamba as a way of financially supporting their initiatives, through ivory and bushmeat poaching. The park also shares 200km of its border with war-torn South Sudan.
Garamba’s park rangers are countering five different forces on a near daily basis:
Park rangers are mainly from the surrounding area and have undergone rigorous training by various experts. African Parks has in-house training facilitators to standardise law enforcement training programmes within the organisation, which has gone a long way in terms of enhancing rangers skills ets. There has been a huge improvement in staff morale as a result.
To step up anti-poaching efforts, significant numbers of rangers were recruited and have undergone in-depth training on various law enforcement skills such as firearm handling, patrol methods, first aid, ambush and counter-ambush tactics, small unit tactics and day-night patrols. Some of the best rangers were selected to form a rapid reaction force. Based at the park headquarters, this force is on standby 24/7 and acts as a helicopter-borne force to be called out on short notice to support ranger teams deployed in the field.
Reclaiming the Park
For nine years, only the bottom third of Garamba could be managed because of pressure from the Lord’s Resistance Army. However, since April 2014, the park has been able to expand its sphere of influence to encompass the entire park as well as areas within the Domain de Chasse where wildlife still occurs. This is largely due to the purchase of a helicopter, which enables rangers to move around freely to wherever they need to be, even during the rainy season. At the same time, all-weather airstrips were repaired so that aircraft can also be used at the peak of the wet season and 100 kilometers of roads have been upgraded and reopened.