In May, African Parks reported that 33 elephants had been poached during the five weeks prior in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), indicating a heightened threat to the park’s elephant population. At the same time, we announced details of escalated counter-poaching measures that were being implemented. In June we updated the situation, confirming that an additional 35 elephants had been killed. Since June the toll has risen and now stands at a total of 109 for the five-month period from April to August. The poaching onslaught has continued despite the intensive, ongoing anti-poaching offence launched in May by African Parks and the ICCN (Congolese Wildlife Authority). At least two poaching incidents involving 15 elephants have been attributed to the use of a helicopter by well-organised poaching groups who shoot the elephants from the air.

The comprehensive measures that have rolled out in Garamba since May include:

  • collaboration with the regional military task force, supported by AFRICOM (The United States Africa Command)
  • the use of a charter helicopter to rapidly deploy anti-poaching units around the park
  • the intensification of aerial surveillance by the park’s aircraft
  • the commencement of the replacement of the communications network in the park

An investigation into the discovery of eight elephant carcasses on 4 August confirmed that they had been killed from a helicopter with bullet wounds on the tops of their heads and backs. The investigating team came across an injured elephant calf that had been left to die and a carcass that contained a mature foetus. Evidence on site showed that after extracting the tusks, trunks and genitals from the animals the poachers then proceeded to cook elephant meat over an open fire.

The park management team and anti-poaching units have sighted and photographed a MI 17 military helicopter over the park on three occasions during the past four months. Another red and white MI 17 helicopter has also been seen flying low over Garamba on several occasions. Poaching attacks by small armed groups, believed to be remnants of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), and poachers emanating from South Sudan have also contributed to the revised slaughter toll of 109 elephants.

Garamba units underwent intensive training in tactics implemented by the chartered helicopter which was rapidly deployed to continuously protect and patrol the park.