Issues with poaching continue to plague Africa, both in the wild and on conservations. The practice is a deadly one, in more ways than one, and tragedy struck the Garamba National Park on Monday after the park was targeted by highly-organized poachers. The park is famous for its large herds of elephants and this means that it is particularly prone to such well-armed and well-equipped poaching sessions. However, Monday’s tragedy came in the form the death of several rangers who were trying to track a poached elephant.
The Garamba National Park wrote on their site that a 10-man squad had set out to track a slain elephant by tracking the signal from the animal’s collar. The signal led the men to the poachers and it was then that the poachers opened fire on the smaller, less well-armed group. The poachers’ camp was in the western Azande hunting area and the ensuing exchange of gunfire made the out-numbered Garamba force scatter. A helicopter was deployed to the site to provide assistance to the rangers as part of the operation but came in under heavy firepower.
The helicopter took a number of hits before managing to rescue six of the 10-man team and flying them to safety and giving them the chance to regroup. Two of the six men were then flown ahead to the town of Nagero, where the park’s headquarters is while the remaining four men managed to walk toward a main road to get assistance. The road was only a two day walk from the site of the attack. Unfortunately the damage sustained by the helicopter meant that it was unable to return for the remaining four men who had been with the group. The park could not gather enough aid to return to the site immediately and when they did the bodies of those four men were found and identified as a slightly reinforced patrol team returned to the site of the attack on the rangers.
Three Garamba rangers: Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo and Djuma Adalu Uweko, were killed along with Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, who was a member of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). The FARDC had been assisting in the tracking. It was reported that these four brave men left behind their wives and a collective total of 14 children. The park extended their condolences upon the family and loved ones of the slain rangers, the CEO of African Parks, Peter Fearnheard issued the message.
“Our sincere condolences go to the families of the four men who tragically lost their loved ones while they were bravely eliminating the scourge of elephant poaching from Garamba National Park. This brings to eight the number of people who have lost their lives in Garamba in 2015 alone.”
The elephant population in the wild has been devastated by illegal elephant hunting, and the population drop from several million at the turn of the century to only about 500,000 today is proof. The trade in ivory is mainly responsible for the drastically reduced amount of elephants alive today. The Dodo reported an estimate amount of 100,000 elephants were slain in the two-year period between 2010 to 2012 alone.
There is far less information available regarding the human toll, though but it is unfortunately a result of poaching as well. The individuals who deal in poaching elephants usually have ties to criminal organizations that will do anything to protect their interests, including slay persons who aim to stop the illegal and inhumane activity.
These four innocent men that attempted to track the slain elephant only sought to get justice for the animals that were in their care and instead they have been made a part of the rising death toll associated with elephant poaching.
[Photo Courtesy of Wolfgang Kaehler/ Getty Images]