Difficult realities of wildlife conservation in central Africa

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Welcome to the Dja Reserve where “poachers are outside of the law.” Even though the often-cited forestry law of 1994 considers the protection of the Reserve and its animals of upmost importance, poaching in and around the area is continually increasing.

The Zoological Society of London has been working on protected wildlife species monitoring in adjacent forest exploitation zones since 2007. The Wildlife Wood Project (WWP) this year has expanded to include a social team who will be working to develop a community surveillance network to enable villagers to denounce large-scale poaching activities. I’m on the far left and Leopoldine is next to me. Here we’re meeting with members of a Baka community to determine their need for and capacity to engage in locally-based anti-poaching activities.

This African palm civet on the left got his tail caught in a wire snare set by poachers operating in a logging concession. By the time the ZSL monitoring team got to him he was tired and non-aggressive. Oliver Fankem, the WWP assistant manager, is left with the cat’s tail after he was forced to cut it off to free the very relieved civet who quickly fled the scene.

The Chef de Poste for the Minister of Forests and Wildlife just outside of Lomié has, since beginning his post just 5 months ago, collected dozens of cartridges from hunters crossing his road block. Most of these cartridges, like the ones shown here, are used to kill small game like duikers or other small forest antelopes, while some of his collection contains ammunition used to kill large game, like elephants or buffalo. This ammunition, as written on the box, usually comes from China, and costs one dollar per cartridge. Most village hunters prefer to set wire snares because of the high costs for ammunition, particularly when the sale price of a duiker in village is around four dollars. Hunters with access to metal ammunition are poachers engaged in large-scale wildlife crime.

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