April 8, 2010

African Animals Being Killed Illegally By Troops

A Congolese environmental protection group said that DR Congo troops illegally killed animals last month in Virunga National Park, including seven hippos and five elephants.

Innovation for the Development and Protection of the Environment (IDPE) said that from March 3-28, government troops killed the hippos and elephants as well as five antelopes, four baboons, three chimpanzees and two buffalo.

All hunting and fishing is banned in Virunga National Park, which is Africa's oldest park.  The park is also a UNESCO world heritage site that covers 1.95 million acres in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The IDPE said in a report that the soldiers "use their wives and cousins to sell the meat" in villages near the park.

The IDPE quoted the commander of the army's 15th Brigade that is allegedly behind most the killings as saying that the troops resort to poaching because of the inadequacy of their food rations.

The IDPE said they have also developed an illegal ivory business in Nord-Kivu province, where Virungo is located, with traders that buy ivory from troops in nearby Goma and Butembo.

The group proposed demilitarizing the park.

The UNESCO said the park comprises an outstanding diversity of habitats that range from swamps and steppes to the snowfields of Rwenzori at an altitude of 16,400 feet, and from lava plains to savannahs on the slopes of volcanoes.

The United Nations organization says on its website that about 200 of the world's last 750 mountain gorillas are found in the park, as well as about 20,000 hippopotamuses.


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