Captain’s Log – July 28 2018 – Garamba Celebrates 80 Years as National Park

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Garamba National Park celebrates 80 years as a National Park with the burning of some of the ivory they have collected from poachers. 

Last month, Cher and I thought we should take an opportunity to get on one of our flights up to Garamba National Park before friends left at the end of their job contract there, so we went up for a couple nights.  Our friend Erik, the warden, asked us to call as we were took off from Nyankunde, but I couldn’t get through till we were about 10 minutes from the park.  To our surprise, we were greeted by a company of fully kitted out Parks Game Scouts on parade to welcome our passengers.  We hadn’t realized it, but we were carrying the EU Ambassador to Congo, the head of USAID to Congo, the head of ICCN, Congo’s National Parks, and the plane full of other dignitaries.  We also did not realize it was the 80th anniversary of the park and there was a big celebration planned with the governor and even more VIPs to come.  So much for our quiet getaway in the bush!

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Our digs at Garamba, East Africa style. We are always falling with our bums in the butter.

But it was very cool. We got to celebrate with our friends. The park has been under harassment from the LRA and South Sudanese poachers, as well as “unknown people” shooting from helicopters, and local poachers. The last of the northern white rhino have disappeared in the time we have been living in Congo and the elephants have suffered greatly. Erik, (who has been shot in the process of protecting the park’s wildlife), was telling us that in the first weeks he was at the park they lost 25 elephants to poachers. In the first 6 months of this year they have lost none!  That is a remarkable change and shows the amount of work that has gone into protecting the elephants here. Part of the celebration was the graduation of 50 new game scouts from their rigorous training program. To be a parks ranger in Congo’s parks is to be a soldier, and these men have been trained by the best; everyone from ex-Mossad, British SAS, Green berets, and French and Belgian special forces. They are putting the poachers on notice that they will not tolerate poaching in their park.

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Fifty new Game Rangers trained and ready to protect the park., putting poachers on notice that this is not a place for them.

Another part of the ceremony was the burning of some ivory.  I have mixed feelings about the viability of this. I am glad it will not benefit the poaching of elephants at all, but I’m not really sure how the law of supply and demand is affected. There are millions of Chinese desiring to buy at this point, and that needs to somehow be the focus of effort on the market in my humble opinion.  Ivory sales in Zimbabwe paid for their elephant conservation program, and it wasn’t until they were stopped that elephant poaching went crazy and elephant population numbers dropped radically, with container loads of ivory going out as “diplomatic pouch” with the government’s full knowledge. Things are not as simple as some would like them to be.  The efforts of the team at Garamba are seriously commendable.

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A big show that Ivory is not going to end up in China if the Rangers have anything to say about it. The “law of supply and demand”, coupled with millions of people with centuries of tradition that Ivory brings status, fight with the burning of Ivory.  The solution will be in the total changing of mindsets.

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Young men and women of Congo ready to take a stand to protect wildlife.

I got to give the Garamba pilot his bi-annual Proficiency Flight Review, so after the celebrations we went out to the airstrip, took the door off the plane, and went out to fly and drop some supplies to the park’s remote outposts from the air. Game viewing from a plane is a wonderful way to see the park and it’s beautiful rolling grasslands.  Especially at 500 feet with the door off.

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Cher, my lovely wife, holds the door while we get ready to fly around the park on a multi mission flight to drop some supplies to out-stations, do a flight review, check for poachers, and game view. It was beautiful and we saw herds of buffalo, big pods of hippo, elephant, hartebeest, and warthogs.

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Alain gave us a great time with fantastic food, friendship and fun flights.

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7 Responses to Captain’s Log – July 28 2018 – Garamba Celebrates 80 Years as National Park

  1. kitarama says:

    Hi Jon, I am new to this blogg. I enjoy your bloggs very much. I tried commenting once before but have had no response. Wonder if I am getting it right. I have much in common in what you are doing and enjoy every bit of your stories. I will get back to writing once I get it right. Hope you are still doing all the wonderful work. Regards Robert

    • Jon says:

      Thanks for writing in. I am not great at keeping up on the blog. Just busy. Thanks for your patience. Jon

      • kitarama says:

        Hi Jon, Thanks very much for the response, I now know I am on the right track. Your September 2018 Road trip was a wonderful update and exact information I looked forward to. Great job keep up the good work. God Bless Robert Hoarau.

  2. Paula Fuller says:

    It was so good to see your blogJon.I love hearing of your trips.GOD Bless you both.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Joan says:

    It’s always great to hear about your life in Africa. Doesn’t life show us there are seldom easy answers on fixing things and I think you are confronted with that more living there. May God continue to bless your work and protect you. Love reading your blogs.

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