Report of a Visit during the First Week of May 2001
Gorilla Journal - June 2001

I went to Bukavu and Tshivanga but I was unable to reach the interior of the park. The security situation has, in fact, deteriorated badly since the end of April 2001:

Because it is currently impossible to guarantee visitors' safety in the park, the Director, Kasereka Bishikwabo, has been forced to refuse entry to the park to any visitors not belonging to the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature). In spite of the bad security situation, ICCN continues to patrol the park. One can only praise the courage and the commitment of trackers, guards, guides and the Director. Thanks to their efforts not a single gorilla has been killed in the high-altitude sector in the last month.

One cannot but wonder at the efficiency of the big organizations and contrast them with the activities of the small ICCN team in Bukavu. Supported by the GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) and small NGOs, this team safeguards the survival of the park against all odds. They have finished the construction of 15 guard posts and a health centre at Tshivanga. Every day, they work to protect the 130 surviving gorillas.

Although far removed from mega-projects and beautiful theories, and faced by the current war situation in the Kivu region, the high-altitude sector of the park continues to survive - thanks to the work of a few determined people. This is very reassuring to see. Once security has returned to an acceptable level and a system for controlling the supply of minerals put into place, the invaders of the lower sector of the park will have to be relocated and offered a reasonable alternative to mining. WFP (World Food Program) has proposed to assist people who agree to leave the park with food aid.

In addition, a long-term strategy for the participation of the population in the management of the park needs to be developed and established; eco-tourism has to be developed; all sorts of research needs to be conducted. In the meantime, the park is fighting to retain its natural heritage, without help from the big organizations. What is most important now is for the park to conserve its capacity to react and to protect what it can with the means it has available.

Jean-François Segers

World Heritage Animals in Danger
Gorilla Journal - June 2001

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a World Heritage Site in Danger. Since Rwandan refugees started to arrive in the Kivu region (i.e. since the current cycle of wars in the Great Lakes Region started in 1994), the KBNP has experienced heavy pressure on its natural resources – timber, minerals and animals alike. This is due to a combination of several factors. Among them are the permanent presence of tens of thousands of armed persons in the park, the exploitation of the minerals coltan and cassiterite, the allocation of 3,500 ha of concessions inside the park, the demand for bamboo, wood and charcoal and the looting of animal nurseries of the farmers living close to the park.

Trapping has intensified as a result of the need for food by the population living in the vicinity of the park. Moreover, purely profit motives have led to the massacre of elephants for their ivory and meat, especially on the part of people from urban areas. The poor financial situation of the park guards has led some of them to become involved in hunting and trapping.

The situation is serious. In the high-altitude sector of the park, the number of elephants was reduced from about 350 to 2. A survey by WCS in 2000 estimated that the number of gorillas had decreased from 258 to 130. Research conducted by the ISDR (Rural Development Institute) has documented large scale poaching in the vicinity of Bukavu. 95% of the park still is not under control of the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature).

Actions aiming at the reduction of poaching should start as soon as possible. Otherwise the chance of survival for gorillas in some parts of the park will be very low, as their population is declining dramatically and their habitat is undergoing severe fragmentation.

Local people are hunting and consuming bushmeat in the Kahuzi-Biega Park because their situation makes it necessary. Therefore, they should be given the opportunity to present alternatives and solutions. The idea led to this inquiry. We sent mails and letters with the following request to persons who know the park and the local population very well:

How is it possible to prevent further hunting of endangered animals in the Kahuzi-Biega Park?

Recommendations should come from persons who know the area and the situation of the local people. If you are one of those persons and I would be very grateful if you could send me your opinion. As this problem can only be solved in cooperation with the people living near the park, I am especially interested in the recommendations of local people. Of course, anybody is welcome to give their opinion.


The basic recommendation to solve the bushmeat problem in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park concerns the highest political level:

  • End the war in the Great Lakes region. The population will not be able to start a normal life again without peace, and the park can not be protected as long as militia are living there. The end of the war is a prerequisite to a successful implementation of further steps (and for tourism). These include:
  • Support the local people and help them develop alternatives to bushmeat consumption.
  • It is especially important to support small local projects and initiatives. As the living conditions of the population are so poor, they still depend on bushmeat, but they would replace it, if alternatives were available.
  • Their living conditions urgently need to be improved. They do not need superficial developmental support but substantial investment aimed at improving their welfare and education.
  • Special attention should be directed to the Pygmies – their situation should be improved as they are the main hunters.
  • Support the ICCN staff. Some of the urgent measures:
  • Pay the guards adequately;
  • Provide equipment and additional material to protect the park effectively.
  • Public awareness for the park in general should be promoted.
  • A special problem are the miners who exploit mineral resources in the park. This destructive activity only can be controlled if the government authorities develop regulations and if these regulations are enforced.
  • To solve the bushmeat problem in Kahuzi-Biega, many more steps have to be taken, as the following individual contributions clearly show. Everybody's opinion is included in detail and recommendations for each level are provided – from UN to local NGO.

    There is hope for the animals of Kahuzi-Biega, but action has to be taken immediately.

    The complete report is available for download in PDF format (approx. 1 MB).


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