Hippos in Ishasha River (btn DRC and Uganda)
Virunga National Park is one of the most famous and rich parks in Africa when you look at its biodiversity. It’s inhabitants are 196 species of large mammals and some of them are only found the Central Albertine Rift (where Virunga is part of the region), 706 species of birds and 106 reptiles, etc.
As part of the region, Virunga NP which is located in the Eastern part of the DRC neighbours mainly five (5) national parks in Uganda and Rwanda.
Because of its continuous nature, it’s absolutely important that managers open their doors to their neighbours in order to work hand in hand to protect this biodiversity which is shared between countries.
The trans-boundary mechanism is a process where protected area authorities agree to work together to tackle regional-conservation related problems. E.g.: By law, rangers from one country are not allowed to cross the border with guns while the wildlife under their control is moving freely! Then poachers as smugglers were using different routes to cross from one side to another knowing that rangers could not break the law. They could be living in Uganda and poach in DRC and vice versa.
Managers have to work together not to minimize or break the law but to develop strategies which are compatible with the law. Managers have agreed to carry on coordinated patrols where rangers from one side are patrolling on their side at the same time and place the other side is doing the same.
To enable this work on going, there is need of field equipment such as tents, raincoats, GPS units, batteries, etc. and ranger rations to enable them to cover long distances where they spend 3 to 5 days.
Coordinated patrols, as field surveillance can not perform all the work needed to reduce illegal activities thus there is need of information gathering and sharing between managers. Most of the wildlife products are trafficked under panya panya roads (smuggling ways) from one country to another.
Confiscated items under intelligence
The smugglers are not crossing boarders and they fear security and custom services as they know most of these products are not allowed for sale or there are several requirements to fulfill and they may not manage.
Managers have created intelligence networks from the surrounding villages up to the regional wardens’ forum and institutions to collect and use information gathered by local informers. In order to get this activity ongoing there is need of more supports to local informers and wardens by providing them communication equipments such as telephone and airtime.
Conservation is a worldwide interest as it contributes to the life of the world. Then it becomes difficult to handle conservation related activities without involving other stakeholders who are important in the whole process: custom, security services, police, army and magistrate are key stakeholders in the trans-boundary work.
It has been a success having these stakeholders in different forums where they learn about conservation, value and importance of the central Albertine rift region. There is a confident environment which has been established between conservation actors and law enforcement services. This cooperation needs to be strengthened if we want this most important part of world to survive: We have Gorillas, Elephants, Hippopotamus, etc.
The trans-boundary natural resource management has moved from the field level (protected area managers) to the Countries authorities (Heads of conservation institutions and Ministers) to the top level (presidential level – Uganda and DRC).