|Type||Anti poaching / Recovery|
The Lomami forest elephant population is probably DRC’s third-largest, after Okapi and Salonga, with an estimated population of just over 600 individuals. The Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation (LWRF) was the platform for the TL2 (Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba) field project in the Lomami ecosystem since 2007, working with the government’s Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, and building strong law enforcement and patrolling capacity. In 2019, LWRF asked the Frankfurt Zoological Society to take on the TL2 project as one of its own. The ECF has supported work in Lomami since 2014 with six grants. Our first grant helped maintain anti-poaching patrols and develop political support during a funding gap. Further funding came at a time when an armed poaching and criminal group, historically responsible for most of the poaching in the park but inactive for the last few years due to the military presence, returned. At this critical time, the park management was also experiencing a funding gap that could potentially mean cutting back on anti-poaching operations. The ECF stepped in with funding to maintain anti-poaching patrolling and elephant monitoring within the park, increase project presence in the buffer zone, and to support other ongoing law enforcement operations. More recently, ECF funding has supported the surrender and reform of multiple groups of elephant poachers. This innovative process is done in close collaboration with authorities, to ensure its legality, and involves: poachers being offered top-level military amnesty; surrendering their weapons to the army; formally agreeing to desist from poaching activities; being supported to return to their villages and reintegrate into society. In most cases, it has proved successful and has led to a significant reduction in the poaching threat in the area. Our current grant is funding a community outreach and information campaign, and a survey, to better understand the presence and threats to elephants that have dispersed into the buffer zones of the park.