In the dense forests of the Congo, you may be surprised to see an elephant. But, there are indeed forest elephants living amongst the trees. These animals are essential to their forest environment, distributing seeds and creating clearings.
Unfortunately, the forests continue to lose these mighty animals because poachers kill them for their ivory tusks. Poaching remains a major threat to all wildlife in the Congo.
Borders hinder enforcement
Allard Blom, WWF’s Managing Director of the Congo Basin, recalls an experience with a poacher and park rangers in the Central African Republic:
“Rangers were on a patrol of the park along the river, when suddenly they spotted a canoe with a baby gorilla inside. They tried to pursue the poacher, but he escaped across the border into Cameroon. They couldn’t go any further, unfortunately.”
This encounter illustrates the limits of law enforcement and the enduring problem of poaching in the region. Poachers find safe havens by crossing the borders of neighboring countries, leaving patrols helpless.
A joint effort to stop poaching
WWF brought together neighboring countries in the Congo Basin to join forces to protect wildlife from poaching. After years of working in the region, WWF recognized that a new strategy must go beyond park boundaries and foster international cooperation. WWF also understood the importance of finding a balance between human development—such as agriculture or mining—and maintaining wildlife areas.
Today, an armed antipoaching brigade from three nations—Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo—patrols the forests. These “wildlife soldiers” move freely within the area and pursue poachers across borders as a result of this international cooperation.
This is good news for target species such as forest elephants. They are difficult to protect because they roam beyond park boundaries looking for different types of fruit throughout the year.
WWF at work in the Congo
The formation of the Tri-national Anti-poaching Brigade is one example of WWF’s success in the Congo. Other projects include:
- working with companies to minimize environmental impacts and prevent transport of bushmeat
- advising governments on which areas to protect and which are best suited for development
- creating sustainable funding mechanisms so that protected areas will have the funds to operate now and in the future
Through our extensive network of partnerships, WWF continues to seek innovative solutions to address the threats that affect the Congo and its wildlife.