New York – The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has expressed deep concern over the rise of poaching, armed violence and destruction in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) Dzanga-Sanga National Park, which is on the agency’s World Heritage List.
“I ask the Central African authorities to act quickly and to do everything possible to restore order in the region and to ensure the conservation of the protected area of Dzanga-Sanga,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova.
Last month, men in uniform carried out repeated attacks around the Park, looting equipment from the administration buildings and destroying the facilities.
The park is part of the Sangha Trinational Site (TNS) situated in the north-western Congo Basin, where Cameroon, CAR and Congo meet, and encompasses three contiguous national parks totalling around 750,000 hectares.
Much of the TNS is unaffected by human activity and features a wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems with rich flora and fauna. Lowland gorillas and forest elephants are two unique species living within the park. The site was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List last year.
Ms. Bokova called on the Governments of the Republic of Congo and the Republic of Cameroon, which share the World Heritage site with CAR, “to share this message with the authorities in Bangui and to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the Nouabalé-Ndoki and Lobéké National Parks in facing this new threat.”
She also sent a message to the CAR’s Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, asking him to take urgent measures to ensure the protection of the park and the safety of its people.
In addition, Ms. Bokova said she is alarmed by the upsurge in poaching in Africa, where some 30,000 elephants are killed each year. Many World Heritage properties in Central Africa have recently reported a significant decrease in their elephant and other large mammal populations, and experts fear that organized groups of poachers are taking advantage of the current political situation to expand their operations in the region.
UNESCO has been supporting the TNS site for nearly ten years, with funding from the UN Foundation, the French Fund for the Global Environment and the European Commission.