Most people think of gorillas as an animal found deep in the tropical rainforests of Africa, as yet untouched by the modern world; yet the forests are no longer deep, nor are they uninhabited. Indeed, as conflicts continue in many African gorilla states (UNSC, 2008), the forests are be- ing cut and burnt to charcoal, timber extracted, roads built, mining operations accelerated and gorillas, along with chimpanzees, bonobos and many other species of wildlife, are being hunted down, killed and sold as bushmeat to feed logging and mining camps and the rapidly rising population relying on bushmeat (Brashares et al., 2004; Poulsen et al., 2009). A rise is also be- ing observed along with this poaching and lack of law enforcement in illegal trade and poaching for other species, including trade of juvenile apes, rhino horn or ivory (Nellemann, pers. obs.).
Gorilla populations are increasingly found in isolated ecologi- cal islands, frequently in the remaining rugged terrain or in swamps, facing the continued loss of habitat, lost access to valuable foraging sites or even capture or death from bushmeat hunters (UNEP, 2002). Gorillas are also threatened by disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, and other diseases, some of which can be transmitted unwittingly by infected tourists and park staff approaching too close to habituated apes.
In spite of attempts to monitor logging concessions and introduce certification schemes for timber or minerals, there are currently no proven schemes in place to secure the continued survival of gorillas, with the exception of the success of the mountain gorillas that have been protected by an effective ranger force, supportive governments and community involvement. Continued road devel- opment to extract resources also facilitates exploitation of wildlife for bushmeat (Wilkie et al., 2000; Brashares et al., 2004; Blake et al., 2008; Brugiere and Magassouba, 2009; Poulsen et al., 2009).
Protected areas currently offer the main formal tool to theoreti- cally protect the gorillas and many other endangered species. However, this formal protection depends entirely on the abil- ity, training and support of the law enforcement agents pres- ent in the parks, generally in the form of park rangers, some- times supported by regular police or army units. The price paid by these courageous defenders of wildlife is high. Con- fronted with militia making incomes from charcoal and mining
(UNSC, 2001; 2008), widespread corruption and also compa- nies supported by large multinational networks, more than 200 rangers have been killed in the last decade in the relatively small area of the Albertine Rift. Poaching to supply bushmeat for mining, logging and militia camps, as well as towns, is rising alongside continued habitat destruction and rising human pop- ulations (Wilkie and Carpenter, 1999; Fa et al., 2000; Brashares et al., 2004; Ryan and Bell, 2005; Poulsen et al., 2009).
The ability of the rangers to enforce laws also depends on other factors: support from administrative officials, judicial aware- ness and willingness to prosecute, and not the least, training and coordination of customs officers and patrolling rangers (Hilborn et al., 2006).
The Congo basin also holds some the worlds largest remaining rainforests that provide eco-system services on a global scale and could play a crucial role in climate mitigation strategies under the REDD+ programmes. These are being designed to protect existing carbon stocks and further carbon sequestration through preservation of rainforests. Establishing appropriate law enforcement and community engagement is essential for success and a prerequisite for any REDD+ investment.
This report stresses the urgency of the situation in the Congo Ba- sin and aims to raise awareness of the success that trans-boundary law enforcement collaboration can bring even in a conflict region.