Illegal poaching and ivory trafficking by armed groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) affect more than just elephants. In places like central Africa, wildlife poaching and trafficking also place local communities in immediate danger, and serves as a revenue stream for armed groups that ultimately perpetuates more violence and exploitation.
Communities in and around national parks and other protected areas, such as Garamba National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), often fall victim to violence at the hands of poachers and other armed groups participating in poaching activity. We see this clearly through reports from Early Warning Network communities in DRC. These reports reveal a clear correlation between the presence of LRA fighters in Garamba Park on poaching missions ordered by Joseph Kony and a significant increase in LRA attacks and abductions in communities located on the periphery of the Park. Based on thorough interviews our Invisible Children teams have conducted with former LRA fighters, we know that LRA groups poaching in Garamba will usually attack and loot communities surrounding the Park as a way to sustain themselves.
In April, our Crisis Tracker Team, informed by reports from the Early Warning Network, identified a spike in LRA attacks on communities around Garamba Park, indicating the presence of an LRA poaching mission. Later that same month, three Garamba Park rangers were tragically killed and two others were seriously wounded in a clash with armed poachers in Garamba. While the armed group responsible for this attack on the park rangers is not believed to be the LRA, the very real connection between illegal wildlife trafficking and threats to human security remains evident.
With illegal wildlife trafficking threatening the safety and livelihood of thousands of families and decimating Africa’s elephant population, anti-poaching efforts are more important than ever before. Our programs, like the Early Warning Network and LRA Crisis Tracker, are increasingly helping to address the human and environmental toll of illegal poaching, particularly at the hands of the LRA, but more robust action from global leaders is urgently needed.
Join us, and our friends at Enough, in urging your representatives in Congress to support the Global Anti-Poaching Act. If passed, the bill would help protect elephants, prevent ivory-funded violence, and provide assistance in enforcing anti-trafficking and poaching laws.