The Last Stand of the Gorilla - Environmental Crime and Conflict in the Congo Basin

date: 2010-03-24

last-stand-of-gorilla

Gorillas, the largest of the great apes, are under renewed threat across the Congo Basin from Nigeria to the Albertine Rift: poaching for bushmeat, loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion, degradation of habitat from logging, mining and charcoal production are amongst these threats, in addition to natural epidemics such as ebola and the new risk of diseases passed from humans to gorillas.

Alarmingly, parts of the region are experiencing intensifed exploitation and logging of its forest, in some cases even within protected areas. In the DRC, many of these activities are controlled by militias illegally extracting natural resources such as gold, tin and coltan as well as producing charcoal for local communities, urban areas, camps for people displaced by fghting and sometimes even to communities across the border. These militias are located, motivated, armed and fnanced directly by this illegal extraction of minerals, timber and charcoal. A network of intermediaries including multinational companies or their subsidiaries, neighboring countries and corrupt offcials, are involved in the transportation and procurement of resources which stem from areas controlled by militia, or for which no legal exploitation permission exists.

Recommendations

  1. Strengthen MONUC by expanding its mandate to secure full control of border crossings, by any means necessary, with regard to the export of illegally exploited natural resources, that are fnancing the confict, in full collaboration with and assisting the national customs authority to intervene and halt trans-national environmental crime, in close coordination with appropriate national and international bodies.
  2. Enhance support for close coordination and trans-boundary collaboration among parks in DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, including coordination with MONUC, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and relevant law enforcement agencies.
  3. Mobilize resources for trans-boundary collaboration and coordination, including all aspects of transnational environmental crime and investigation from source to end-user outside the region – including investigations of complicit companies in recipient countries, especially but not limited to the EU, USA, People’s Republlic of China and the rest of Asia – in order to monitor the origin and halt the purchase of illegally exploited and smuggled minerals and timber from the Congo Basin.
  4. Mobilize funding for judicial training and cross-boundary training of judicial staff in national and transnational environmental crime in gorilla range states to assist in bringing successful prosecutions.
  5. Strengthen long term training programmes in law enforcement for park rangers and wildlife managers across the region including those working outside of parks, for example in community reserves, with particular reference to anti-poaching, monitoring, scene of crime investigation and intelligence gathering.
  6. Promote the essential role that local, national and international law enforcement and anti-corruption plays in ensuring the success of rainforest protection and climate mitigation efforts under REDD+ and source specifc fnance for these measures through UNEP, UNODC, LATF and INTERPOL.
  7. Establish a fund for supporting trans-boundary investigation and collaboration on trans-national environmental crime.
  8. Strengthen the collaboration of UNEP, UN offce for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO), CITES, World Customs Organization (WCO) and INTERPOL on trans-national environmental crime – including illegal trade in valuable natural resources such as minerals, wood products and wildlife – by, for example, secondment of experienced offcers to help investigate cases and bring about prosecutions.
  9. Support the need for strengthened funding for gorilla research and survey data. The report, compiling some of the most recent data and information from a variety of sources, clearly highlights the lack of accurate survey data in parts of the regions within the 10 gorilla range states.
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