In the past five weeks, 33 elephants have been killed in Congo’s Garamba National Park. African park authorities say that the killings may be linked to the warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA grabbed international attention when the organization Invisible Children produced a video to “elect” Joseph Kony to the public consciousness. KONY 2012 went viral, but Kony and his guerilla army are still at large, hiding somewhere in the jungles of Central Africa. With the recent spike in elephant poaching (10 elephants were killed on May 9 alone), the evidence seems to point towards a known LRA base.
On Wednesday, Reuters obtained a letter written by African Parks CEO Peter Fernhead to his conservation partners:
“We have reason to believe that the major poaching thrust is emanating from the heavily forested Azande Domaine de Chasse (which) has been a traditional base for the LRA.”
This suspicion is bolstered by a 2013 report from the Enough Project that states the LRA has turned to poaching to supply themselves with food and weapons. However, Fearnhead admits that it is still unclear “whether the current poaching onslaught emanates from the LRA, Sudanese poaching gangs, local Congolese poachers, or a combination of these.”
Approximately 1,000 elephants reside in Garamba. They are frequently targeted by poachers, and the LRA was implicated in a single 2012 attack that left 22 elephants dead and mutilated. However, this link has never been proven.
As to this latest incident, Reverend Benoit Kinaleau, a Catholic priest heading a network that monitors LRA attacks, says he is unconvinced. “We hear the elephants were killed by professional poachers. That is not the LRA…. This area is so militarized it is impossible to know who it was.”
A coalition of U.S. Special Forces and the African Union Regional Task Force are currently hunting for Kony and the LRA around the area of South Sudan.
You can help the NRDC stop elephant poaching by visiting Green Gifts today