Investigative reporters working hand in hand with key international conservation NGOs have launched a broadside against the government in Congo Brazzaville over the large-scale killings of the endangered western lowland gorillas. Game meat is a source of quick money for poachers, and there appear ready markets in the entire region. It is alleged in the report that several adult gorillas are killed every week with the government doing nothing to prevent the slaughter. In stark contrast, are the eastern African countries standing together to protect the equally-endangered mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountain range spanning from Rwanda over Uganda to eastern Congo DR. The UN Year of the Gorilla 2009 is being celebrated with added protection measures to ensure the long-term survival of the species, however, the government in Brazzaville seems blissfully unaware and ignorant of what is going on in its own backyards or otherwise is deliberately turning a blind eye to the ongoing “gorilla-cide,” suggesting that officials may very well be involved in this lamentable trend.
It is hoped that the report, once it makes its way to international organizations and gains global exposure, will help to name and shame specific government officials in Congo Brazzaville and compel that country to reverse its “see not, hear not, speak not” policy in favor of active and sustained conservation measures.
Income derived from gorilla-based tourism in Rwanda and Uganda are at an all-time high, and the demand continues to outstrip the supply of tracking permits, helping UWA and RDB-T&C to actually pay for its expenditure in those parks, invest in further protection measures, share revenue with neighboring communities, and subsidize parks with a lesser income to maintain biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.
West Africa could also enter this tourism mainstream activity with a little foresight and comprehension, but experience shows that the two Congos in particular have an atrocious record of protecting its wildlife, as the killing and extermination of the last remaining Northern White Rhinos in the wild in Congo’s Garamba National Park continues to remind the global conservation fraternity. In that case, a government official had halted the mission to airlift the remaining rhinos to a safe haven in Kenya at the very last moment, condemning them to certain death by poaching. The more recent developments in Congo Brazzaville have also put that country into the ranks of pariah states when it comes to wildlife protection and conservation.
The executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, currently holding the chair of the Great Apes Survival Project Executive Committee – in short “GRASP” – will comment from his viewpoint on the successes in Uganda to prevent poaching through community engagement, the remaining challenges, and the lessons which can be drawn from the Ugandan and Rwandan success stories of recent years by non-compliant regimes like in Congo Brazzaville.