In the Field With Our Anti-Poaching Team

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May 23, 2011

In the Field With Our Anti-Poaching Team

As Deputy Director of the Karisoke Research Center, helping to manage many exciting programs, I often have an opportunity to get out of the office and join the field staff as they study and protect gorillas in the forest. For my first blog I'd like to tell you about one of these occasions.
Last week, I joined the anti-poaching team during one of their daily patrols in Sector III of Volcanoes National Park, also known as the Karisoke sector because the groups of gorillas monitored by the Karisoke Research Center range in this area.
For this patrol, we formed two teams of three members each. We patrolled some of the areas most often used by gorillas, between the Karisimbi and Bisoke Volcanoes. The good news is that we did not find any illegal activities that day.
During the previous week, trackers following the research groups had reported a high number of snares in Sector III. In only 10 days, 18 snares were destroyed by trackers and members of the anti-poaching team.
For several days in the past two weeks, the anti-poaching team had not been able to carry out their daily routine patrol, as they were called upon to assist gorilla tracker teams in another area of the park during the search for Pablo's group, which had not been located for four days. In addition, they helped search for female Ntobo from Bwenge's group, who was missing for three days. This interruption of the anti-poaching team's daily patrols may have been known to local poachers, which could explain the high number of snares set in this particularly accessible area in less than two weeks.
On May 15 and 17 we organized "shock patrols" with reinforcements from members of the community and the tracker teams to carry out an extensive search for snares, during which five snares were destroyed. This brought the total number of snares found in one restricted area of Sector III to 23!
The daily patrols are very important, as they provide crucial day-to-day information on trends in illegal activities. This allows timely patrol planning.

Felix Ndagijimana, Deputy Director, Karisoke Research Center