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Photo of an anti-poaching patrol in Congo.

Anti-poaching patrols protect wildlife in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Photograph by Frans Lanting, National Geographic Creative

Bryan Christy

for National Geographic

Published May 13, 2014

One of Africa's oldest national parks announced Tuesday that it had been hit by an unusual wave of attacks by armed elephant poachers, with dozens of carcasses found, and three suspected poachers killed.

Garamba National Park, a remote 1,900-square-mile park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, issued an urgent alert Tuesday that it had been hit by poachers emanating from an area known to house the terrorist group the Lord's Resistance Army.

According to African Parks Network (APN), an NGO that manages Garamba under agreement with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, 33 elephant carcasses have been discovered so far. Most appear to have been killed in April, but ten carcasses were discovered Friday, their tusks removed.

Poaching in central Africa, the continent's highly unstable region, has been a source for elephant ivory exiting the continent's major ports, including those in Kenya, Tanzania, and Togo.

APN says that over the weekend, its anti-poaching teams engaged a group of eight poachers, killing three. A second poaching group fled. Anti-poaching efforts are ongoing.

Attacks on Garamba might now be said to have taken on a perversely seasonal quality. This attack comes almost exactly two years after another significant attack on Garamba left two dozen elephants dead, and another incident attributed to the Lord's Resistance Army last year.

Bullet holes in the top of elephants' heads during that 2012 incident indicated the animals had been shot from the air, corroborating allegations that they were killed from Ugandan military helicopters.

In 2009, an LRA attack on Garamba left at least eight people dead.

Photo of the Garamba River.
The Garamba River winds its way through the grasslands of Garamba National Park.
Photograph by Nigel Pavitt, John Warburton-Lee Photography/Corbis

Possible Terrorist Links

In his letter issued today, APN chief executive Peter Fearnhead wrote, "Whilst we cannot confirm the source of the threat, we have reason to believe that the major poaching thrust is emanating from the heavily forested Azande Domaine de Chasse (hunting range) to the west of the park. Azande has been a traditional base for the Lords' Resistance Army (LRA) over many years however we are as yet unable to confirm whether the current poaching onslaught emanates from the LRA, Sudanese poaching gangs, local Congolese poachers, or a combination of these. The extremely heightened level of poaching suggests an organised group or groups of poachers focusing their efforts on Garamba."

Garamba is home to an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 elephants, making it one of the largest elephant populations remaining in central Africa. It is also home to many other species, including hippos, lions, and buffaloes. The park lies on the border of South Sudan, from where armed poaching groups have terrorized neighboring countries.

Follow Bryan Christy on Twitter.

44 comments
Solon Lechonitis
Solon Lechonitis

Another sad Story.With the velocity of killings there will be no Elephants to see at the end of this decade.The African governments do not enough to protect them.

gail shuck
gail shuck

Serious trouble in Africa for man and animal.

Brandon Morgan-Melo
Brandon Morgan-Melo

I still can not believe this is still happening. Does anyone know of I can have a printer version of this article for my class?

mani kandan
mani kandan

bastardssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss..............

come infront of  me i show you what hell really is......

killing innocents....??????bastardsssssss..

M. Öcal
M. Öcal

Humanity is to slaughter animals to hear that's the punishment from god

Rodolfo Alonzo
Rodolfo Alonzo

Pity you do not possess the skills of drones. Equipped with explosives. You come across a dead elephant. And the poachers are still cutting the tusks off. Well the elephant is already dead. Use the drone and whack the poacher. Unless you are against killing greedy blood thirsty poachers. Who will stop at nothing to kill an elephant. Cause thats money in the pockets. Probation probably will not work. Nor will a GPS collar on the ankle, community work. Look out for the elephants. What goes around comes around. Oh ya one more thing Asian people with their taste for shark fin soup and ivory are a BIG part of the problem. No offense meant.

Veronika Vrabelova
Veronika Vrabelova

I am so sad for all killed elephants... :-( I think education and information about natural treasure of Africa should be spread. So people will learn how special they and their nature parks are. They should know, they should appreciate more and protect it. Not  to destroy and kill.

Farai Q Malianga
Farai Q Malianga

Mali, Timbaktu- centre of trading and learning and libraries. This is a world treasure that needs to be protected

Garamba National Park's elephants would be safe if there was no demand for this commodity in the civilised world's superstitions

Marisol Gs
Marisol Gs

dEBEN ELIMINAR A LOS COMPRADORES DE MARFIL...A ESOS NADIE LOS TOCA

Michael Lorentz
Michael Lorentz

The small pockets of wilderness and wildlife that are left in Africa (and the rest of the World) are an International heritage and without them our World will be greatly depleted. 


Finding ways to save and protect them is a global responsibility. Each one of us can make a difference and collectively we can stem this tide of destruction. For the sake of our children, failure is not an option.

MJ Zavala
MJ Zavala

So sad!!! no words to express my feelings...

Cynthia Carlson
Cynthia Carlson

This is a crisis beyond the confines of Africa. All nations need unite to save what is left of the biodiversity of Earth and need to see it for what it is, a war perpetrated by those who have no respect for or care about our planet. At the heart is a shortsightedness and ignorance dominated by greedy gratification. They are monsters and are enemies of the Earth, our precious planet. How dare they harm or take the life of these elephants. Murderers.

Kathryn Chelminski
Kathryn Chelminski

It's a very sad story indeed, but the rhetoric on poaching and protected areas is very outdated and narrowly defined. It only vaguely attributes the underlying sociopolitical dynamics motivating poaching as a livelihood in the first place. The poaching of elephants and illegal trade in wildlife or other natural resources is only one of the symptoms of a larger sociopolitical problem ...

john tyler
john tyler

God bless the APN! The men in that top picture, are risking their lives every day to protect the animals. I don't know how many of these protectors their are? But they are fighting against the b****** poachers and the Ugandan military monsters, who are providing air support and have many more weapons. 

I feel this is a worthy cause. How do I join the APN?

Franziska Cook
Franziska Cook

How sad and horrible, it makes me so angry to read this. How can these people do this, to these amazing creatures. Isn´t the human being the most ridiculous and cruel creature amongs all.

Michael C.
Michael C.

Precisely Phillip - if there were no market then there would be no killings so the authorities need to quickly identify the market and deal with this at that level and only then will the treasured elephants be safe.

Phillip Lake
Phillip Lake

Who are the buyers?? Answer that question and the problem will end. Until then the part of the human population that treasures all of God's animals will have to talk it out loud to others.

Coral Simpson
Coral Simpson

Hard to get through to these types also there must be still buyers and they must also be held accountable.

Ross Nash
Ross Nash

Catch and arrest these perpetrators and let the elephants that survived trample upon them,. For what ungodly reason can this be justified? 

Bonni B.
Bonni B.

I try to maintain a positive attitude, but it's getting extremely difficult when these things keep happening. I have reached a new low in my hope for humanity. :(

Gary Robinette
Gary Robinette

Their armed anti poaching patrols are not doing a very good job. They need drones with live feeds to track the poachers. Those vermin will keep killing until there are no animals left except in zoos. 

Sylvie Besnard
Sylvie Besnard

Sad news. These people are so poor, of course they have to earn a living but this should not be happening today.

Dery Reyboubet
Dery Reyboubet

This is horrible! How we can help? Those poachers don't respect any convention or lows - there is valid only brute force there... What we can do with it? It's imposible to figth with a goodness against the evil. So, how?!  Sadly, I don't know...

Veronika Vrabelova
Veronika Vrabelova

@Phillip Lake  Buyers should be punished as well as poachers. Ivory trade should be banned all over the world at once.


So everyone who might demand ivory would be treated as criminal.

Susan Campisi
Susan Campisi

@Ross Nash  Absolutely no justification whatsoever, Ross. And yet some people argue that ivory is important. We need a worldwide ban on the ivory trade. The US has the second largest market for ivory. That needs to unequivocally end if elephants are to have a fighting chance. Please sign and share this petition to ban the US ivory trade:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/unequivocally-ban-all-ivory-commerce-save-elephants-extinction/ChN4KYSV


We need 100,000 signatures by May 30. It's a tough fight, but elephants are worth it. Thank you!

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson

Yes, everyone who wants ivory ought to branded with a red

-hot poker on his or her forehead.

Bonni B.
Bonni B.

@Cynthia Carlson @Bonni B.  I am struggling to maintain ANY hope  at all. What keeps me going are the bright, beautiful, intelligent and loving children and young adults that my friends are raising. So, I cannot completely abandon hope that we must continue to raise awareness on this planet. But yes, it is so very difficult and heartbreaking.

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