I read today of the murder of four officials whose task it was to protect the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo1. If the reports are accurate, it seems that it took at least two days for their bodies to be located and recovered.
I have said it before and I am going to say it again. These officials were law enforcement officers and, yet, the wider law enforcement community appears willing to let such deaths go unavenged. That would not be the case, and apologies for repeating what I have written several times in the past, if those men had borne the title Constable, Trooper, Patrolman, Special Agent or Deputy, instead of ‘Ranger’.
I am becoming sick to my stomach of the current response to wildlife crime. Politicians, diplomats, heads of international governmental and non-governmental organizations, celebrities, etc. queue up to endorse statements, declarations and resolutions, each of which commits their countries and the international community to combating poaching and fauna and flora trafficking. Is any one of them making a difference on the ground? The media is awash with articles on wildlife crime. Thousands of people sign petitions in response to the apparently illicit hunting of a lion named Cecil. Hundreds of thousands call for the banning of particular forms of trade in wildlife. Have we lost all sense of proportion and priority?
Who will raise a petition on behalf of rangers Anselme Kimbesa Muhindo, Andre Gada Migifuloyo and Djuma Adalu Uweko, and Colonel Jacques Sukamate Lusengo, and how many will rush to sign it?
These murders have to stop.
Providing extra paramilitary training to anti-poaching personnel or deploying a nation’s military forces to combat poachers is not the answer, or certainly not the entire answer. As we all acknowledge, one has to seek out, and bring to justice, those persons who are supplying weapons and ammunition to the poachers and thereafter facilitating the trafficking of the endangered species’ body parts which the hunters gather. And that aspect cannot be achieved by the officials of wildlife, national parks, game reserve or forest departments. Those criminals can only be efficiently and effectively targeted by the Police agencies which have the relevant resources and expertise to do so.
It is time, it is long overdue, for the heads-of-state and ministers who endorsed those statements, declarations and resolutions to give clear instructions to their Police agencies to make wildlife crime a priority. If for no other reason (and can there be a better one?) than their counterparts are being gunned down on-duty whilst trying to prevent CRIME.
The Annual Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police takes place in Chicago later this month. I earnestly hope that, despite this matter not being on its agenda, it will have the capacity to respond to what is occurring and call upon all relevant Police Chiefs to return home and examine how they might provide assistance.
INTERPOL will convene an environmental crime conference, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme, in Singapore next month. I trust they will seek a similar commitment from participants.
If those organizations cannot garner attention to what is happening, and produce a meaningful reaction on behalf of their members, what is their worth? If you have influence with those bodies, please use it. Lobby the mainstream law enforcement community to engage. Demand that politicians demonstrate real political-will. There’s too much hypocrisy and corruption out there at the moment.
How often can it be said that the time for talk is over?
It seems the world didn’t care about refugees until they recently saw images of a young boy’s body on a beach. Apparently the world hadn’t woken up to the criminal slaughter of wildlife until a lion with a name died. Do we have to circulate on social media pictures of the corpses of Anselme, Andre, Djuma and Jacques before anyone takes notice?
I don’t usually care how many ‘hits’ my posts get. This time, though, may I please ask my loyal readers to ‘share’ this as widely as you possibly can? If we can raise our voices on behalf of animals and plants, surely we can shout even louder and longer on behalf of those persons who, every day, risk their lives (and too often sacrifice them) to guard the natural wonders of our planet?
1. Four Men Killed by Poachers in Garamba National Park, DRC