Sunday, 1 September 2019

Hunters turn gamekeepers to help C. Africa's threatened wildlife

AUGUST 30, 2019

by Florent Vergnes

Jean moves deftly through the tangle of roots and branches before waiting for the rainforest to give him a clue.

In the heart of the Dzanga-Sangha wildlife reserve in western Central African Republic, the Pygmy hunter is looking for the tracks of a large female elephant he has been following for the last three hours.

The elephant is not Jean's prey, but rather the opposite.

He is part of a force of local hunters who have trained to become rangers. Their mission: to protect the park's precious animals from ruthless poachers.

Lying on the flanks of the Sangha River, the 4,000-square-kilometre (1,500-square-mile) park, created in 1990, is the CAR's last haven for elephants and Central African gorillas.

Luis Arranz of the environment group WWF, which runs the park in partnership with the CAR government, is worried that this precious refuge will also fall one day.

"It won't last," he predicts sadly.

He points to the potential booty for poachers from ivory tusks, giraffe skins, pangolin scales and gorilla meat.

Scientists, with the help of the Pygmy rangers, are moving through the park to draw up an inventory of the major species.

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