hope in a conservation battlefield|Garamba – DR Congo

Staff and community members from Garamba National Park walk home in their Sunday best from the local church at Garamba NP headquarters in Nagero.,DRC.

Earlier this year I did an assignment for African Parks in Garamba National Park in The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bird life in Garamba National Park, DRC.
Bird life in Garamba National Park, DRC.

Garamba is one of Africa’s oldest parks, encompassing an area of around 2,000 sq miles it shares a border with South Sudan.

The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a unique bio diversity and home to a plethora of exotic species including forest elephants, hippos and the DRC’s last population of Kordafan Giraffe numbering about 55.

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Garamba rangers protect the critically endangered Kordofan Giraffe. African Parks have counted 55 remaining in the DRC and they reside solely in Garamba National Park.

Garamba has had a turbulent history making it a dangerous place for both wildlife and humans to live. For years, militias from the DRC, CAR and South Sudan have terrorized  surrounding villages and poached endangered wildlife to feed soldiers and fund armies.

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Rangers walk through elephant grass in Garamba National Park. The rangers are heavily armed and from part of a trained security operation that is protecting the parks wildlife and surrounding communities from militia forces that have marred Garamba’s history with violence.

In 2016 African Parks had a security overhaul and successfully reduced risks. The parks surrounding villages and wildlife received crucial protection and a higher level of safety was enforced. But sadly it is still too dangerous for tourists to travel and remains one of the toughest places in the world to be a ranger.

Garamba National Park, DRC.
Garamba National Park, DRC.

Remarkably, Garamba houses a committed team of scientists, humanitarians, rangers, researchers, medics, pilots, security experts and professionals who live and work for African Parks at their headquarters in Nagero, Garamba National Park.

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A patient lies in the surgery at Nagero Hospital in Garamba, DRC. The patient had been in a motorbike accident . During emergency treatment, the man’s heart stopped and he was given CPR by Dr. Dio and his team. The man was successfully revived. The hospital was built and is funded by African Parks.
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African Parks development team show an advocacy film under the stars for the community and staff at Nagero Headquarters, Garamba NP, DRC. The film was projected onto a tarpaulin strapped to the goal post on the Nagero football pitch.
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The dog unit is a new addition to the park. Recently imported from the Netherlands, the dogs begin scent training exercises.
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The dogs and handlers adhere to a rigorous schedule of daily training exercises.
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Illegal gold mining in Garamba National Park’s buffer zone is a growing threat to the environment. New mines are growing at an exponential rate and are devastating the habitat. The African Parks development team are working with local chiefs and key stakeholders on relocation of the mines and the use of sustainable practices. Garamba buffer zone, Sambia, DRC.
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The tiniest nuggets of gold are the results of extensive destruction of local habitat and exploitation of Congolese villagers remains high.
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Children sweep their school yard before school begins. The school was built and is partly funded by African Parks.