Ivory poaching in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve continues to be the greatest challenge for ICCN wardens and rangers. Rangers on forest patrol must be ever vigilant to the great peril of encountering heavily armed elephant poachers and firefights are not uncommon. The recent arrest of soldiers transporting ivory through the Reserve poignantly illustrated the depth of the organized network now involved with illegally poaching and selling ivory in the DR Congo. Our programs to support ICCN and wildlife protection are critical to sustaining the important elephant populations living in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve ICCN rangers recently arrested soldiers traveling in an SUV through the Reserve, carrying 160kg of ivory in suitcases (representing 10 forest elephants killed). An undercover investigation revealed the soldiers conducted the ivory transaction with an elephant poacher in the nearby town of Mambasa. The group was subsequently apprehended as they attempted to transport the ivory back to their base in Kisangani. The ivory was confiscated but the soldiers were released following the intervention of Kisangani military officials. The incident illustrates the very complex and high level network involved with ivory poaching in the DR Congo. The ICCN conservators, rangers and local officials involved with the investigation and arrest are to be commended for their work and bravery.
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