January 23, 2013
Latest Victory in the Ongoing Battle Against Poaching
Each year, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field staff see an increase in illegal activities as we approach the end of the year, and 2012 was no exception. However, we are very proud of our anti-poaching team for having successfully apprehended two poachers in Volcanoes National Park.
The poachers were caught butchering an antelope that had been trapped by a snare. Earlier in the day, while on a routine patrol in Sector 3 of the park, where most of the Fossey Fund-monitored gorillas range, the team discovered the dead antelope as well as the trails of four poachers near the snares. Anticipating that the poachers would return to retrieve the antelope, the team planned an ambush patrol.
From 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. our team, led by Phocas Nkunzingoma, hid in the forest with no food and without speaking, lest they alert poachers to their presence. Finally, three poachers returned to the site. When they saw our team, one ran away but the two others were arrested. Our team followed an established protocol for transferring the poachers to local authorities.
We are very grateful for the dedication and skill our anti-poaching team showed in handling this situation, and in particular for the leadership of Nkunzingoma, who was recently promoted to be the leader of the Fossey Fund’s new anti-poaching team, which was hired this fall. Veronica Vecellio, Gorilla Program manager, says, “Phocas has proven himself to be one of the most dedicated and talented trackers on our staff and with this incident he once again confirmed his extraordinary dedication.”
It is good that we were able to catch the poachers this time, both to prevent them from further hunting in the forest and to discourage other poachers by showing them the cost of their actions. Unfortunately, the reasons people poach are various and multi-faceted, stemming from a complex range of issues the local human population faces. This is why the Fossey Fund also invests in the communities living around Volcanoes National Park. Understanding the problems local people must deal with, addressing them, providing education, and enlisting communities as our allies in conservation is essential to reducing illegal activities in the park and continuing to keep it safe for mountain gorillas.