Hunters turn gamekeepers to help Central Africa's threatened wildlife

2019-09-02 15:10
A wild forest elephant and calves bathe in the marshes of in Bayanga Equatorial Forest, part of the Dzanga Sangha Reserve. (Florent Vergnes, AFP)

A wild forest elephant and calves bathe in the marshes of in Bayanga Equatorial Forest, part of the Dzanga Sangha Reserve. (Florent Vergnes, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jean moves deftly through the tangle of roots and branches before waiting for the rainforest to give him a clue.

In the heart of the Dzanga-Sangha wildlife reserve in western Central African Republic, the Pygmy hunter is looking for the tracks of a large female elephant he has been following for the last three hours.

The elephant is not Jean's prey, but rather the opposite.

He is part of a force of local hunters who have trained to become rangers. Their mission: To protect the park's precious animals from ruthless poachers.

Lying on the flanks of the Sangha River, the 4 000kmpark, created in 1990, is the CAR's last haven for elephants and Central African gorillas.

Luis Arranz of the environment group WWF, which runs the park in partnership with the CAR government, is worried that this precious refuge will also fall one day.

"It won't last," he predicts sadly.

He points to the potential booty for poachers from ivory tusks, giraffe skins, pangolin scales and gorilla meat.

Scientists, with the help of the Pygmy rangers, are moving through the park to draw up an inventory of the major species.

A team accompanying Jean followed the trace of the female elephant to a large, swampy clearing, where about 100 elephants were gathered, rummaging for salt with the tip of their trunks.

Poor and chronically unstable, the CAR has been wracked by civil strife since 2013. Poaching - facilitated by porous borders, negligible policing and voracious Asian demand - has been the big benefactor.

Ecofaune, a conservation NGO for the north of the country, estimates that the population of large mammals in Dzanga-Sangha has fallen by a catastrophic 94 percent over the last three decades.

Arranz is stricken by the loss.

"Giraffes have disappeared from the north, rhinos too. There are no more savanna elephants either," he says gloomily. "The poachers are bound to come here one day."

GET THE NEWS at your fingertips and download the News24 app for Android here now. Get it for your iPhone here.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    wildlife  |  central africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.