Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blood Hippos more valuable than diamonds

Emmanuel blogs

"As we were driving back from the airfield this afternoon, we overtook a truck.  Just as we drove past, a waft of that sadly familiar smell of bushmeat swept through the window.  A quick call to Sekibibi, who was on duty at Rumangabo just up the road, and within seconds he was running down the hill with a section of rangers.  Just in time to intercept the truck.  I left them to it, they knew exactly what to do.
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The truck was searched through, and sure enough, a lady with hippo meat (we’ve blurred her face for legal reasons).  She was from Ishasha on her way to sell the meat at the Goma market, and the hippo was from Nyakakoma, killed by the FDLR militias.  Each piece of meat sells for an incredible 30 dollars.  The whole operation lasted less than an hour.  Unfortunately, with all the armed militias in the eastern sector of the park we’re going to have to launch many such operations to stop the killings.
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The trade is incredibly damaging.  Not only is it destroying the park, it’s destroying the fish stocks on the lake (hippos are the main reason the lake is so productive) and as a result, destroying people’s livelihoods.  It’s also putting money into the hands of the FDLR, and they’re using that money to buy weapons that they use to kill our rangers (we received a report yesterday that they’ve bought two PKM machine guns in Ishasha with the money from the sale of bushmeat)."

Emmanuel in the comments says

" ...The hippo populations in Virunga used to be the biggest single population in the world. In the 1970’s there used to be 27,000, that’s 20% of the world’s hippos. In 2003 there were only 350 left. Now we have 1200 but we risk losing them if we’re unable to stem the current burst in poaching."

The scale of the problem is clear. And tragic.

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