The Environmental Crime Crisis

CASE STUDY Democratic Republic of Congo: Illegal exploitation of natural resources

Garamba National Park is located along the northern border with South Sudan. The LRA and Sudanese poaching gangs use it actively, and local poachers who operate with impunity in the insecure environment, also blame the militias. Most of Garamba is too dangerous to patrol. Park rangers can only conduct foot patrols in the southern third of the park, south of the Garamba River. 107 By 2013 the park’s population of 22,000 elephants had decreased by 90% to around 2,000 animals. The park was home to the last wild populations of Northern White Rhinoceros in the world before being poached to extinction in the 2000s by Sudanese poaching gangs, possibly Janjaweed. 108 Travelling in gangs of dozens of hunters and porters, the Sudanese poachers, typically armed with AK-47s, poach elephants in and around the park. 109 The LRA, operating on direct orders from their leader Joseph Kony, hunt elephants in order to trade ivory to transnational criminal groups for guns, ammunitions, food, and other supplies. In 2009, the group attacked the park headquarters, killing 17 of the park’s staff. 110 Ugandan forces linked caches of tusks found in the Central African Republic CAR to the LRA. 111

The DRC is rated by CITES as one of the two most prob- lematic countries in Africa for illegal exploitation of natural resources, from ivory to elephants. In some sites in the country, 90% of elephant carcasses discovered had been poached. 106 Ivory is considered to be hunted and traded by militants for weapons, ammunition, food, and other mate- rials required to sustain insurgent movements. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Janjaweed, the Democratic Forces for the Defence of Rwanda (FDLR), Mai-Mai Morgan, and various local armed militias regularly poach elephants and hippos for ivory in the DRC. Many of these same groups are directly implicated in illicit timber, charcoal, gold, and mineral trades and have been connected to serious human rights abuses including mass murder, recruitment of child soldiers, kidnapping, forced labour, sex slavery, mass looting, and displacement. These armed groups hunt elephants by organizing and supplying locals to hunt the animals. Impor- tantly, ivory is a commodity available to lower level fighters who are unable to benefit from more lucrative taxation schemes controlled by militant group leaders.


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