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Rebels And Rangers Kills Conservationists And Poachers In Africa Wildlife Clashes

The park is home to buffaloes, elephants and gorillas, species threatened in turn by civil war between 1996 and 2003, by poaching, and by local inhabitants contributing to deforestation.
by Staff Writers
Kinshasa (AFP) May 20, 2007
A nature conservationist was killed and two park keepers wounded when local tribesmen attacked their remote gorilla observation post in a wildlife park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an official said Sunday. A third keeper was believed to have been abducted. Conservation officials suspect locals living illegally in the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of ordering militias previously involved in civil war in DRC to attack the post to frighten away conservationists.

The incident occurred overnight Saturday at the 8,000 square kilometre (3,000 square mile) Virunga park in northern Kivu in the east of the vast central African country.

"A conservationist has died, two guards have been wounded and a third guard is missing," said an official of the DRC Nature Conservation Institute.

The identity of the dead man, whose specific role had been to promote public awareness of ecology issues, was not immediately released.

The park is home to buffaloes, elephants and gorillas, species threatened in turn by civil war between 1996 and 2003, by poaching, and by local inhabitants contributing to deforestation.

The Conservation Institute said it was believed at least 10,000 people were still living in the park, whose preservation has been declared a priority by the DRC environment ministry.

According to witness statements the attackers were members of the Mai Mai, a nebulous collection of tribal militias and local defence forces who fought on both sides of the two back-to-back wars that swept the DRC for six years.

"They went straight to the house of the head of the post, who was absent," said Honore Mashagiro of the nature conservation body. "They killed the conservationist who was inside the dwelling at the time."

The attackers had also shot and wounded two keepers, "and probably kidnapped another, an officer, who has been reported missing," he added. Army units had been dispatched to try to track down the missing man.

Norbert Mushenzi, responsible for the park's northern area, explained that the team at the attacked post had been conducting observations of gorilla groups, but apparently at some risk from local human beings.

"Our presence is very unwelcome to people living illegally in the park," he explained. "We have already received threats because these people don't want to leave the park."

The Nature Conservation Institute said it believed locals had hired the Mai Mai to carry out the attack in order to frighten off conservationists and persuade DRC authorities to do a compromise deal with local farmers illegally farming park areas.

Last year some 6,000 smallholders were forced to leave the park.

earlier related report
Seven killed as rangers, poachers clash in coastal Kenya
Nairobi (AFP) May 19 - Three wildlife rangers and four poachers were killed overnight in a firefight in a remote Kenyan district notorious for poaching activities, the Kenya Wildlife Service said Saturday.

KWS spokesman Paul Udoto said another ranger who was in a group of seven was seriously wounded in the 2.00 am (2300 GMT) operation in Tana River District, home to three national parks in the Coastal Province.

"The Kenya Wildlife Service regrets to announce the death of three rangers who have been gunned down by bandits during an operation in Tana Tiver district," he said in a statement.

"During the fierce exchange of fire, the rangers killed four poachers while others escape with injuries," it said.

Two AK 47 rifles, two axes and several other assorted items were recovered, and KWS rangers were pursuing those who escaped, it said.

Last year, KWS rangers killed a notorious Somali elephant poacher, said to have killed 17 elephants and 9 rhinos between 2001 and 2006.

Trade in ivory is banned under a treaty of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Kenya has been hailed by conservationists for its anti-poaching steps and fierce opposition to calls for a partial lifting of that ban.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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China As Asian Beacon For Africa
Tokyo (UPI) May 17, 2007
Asia may be a role model for many African nations, but it is China that they most aspire to these days, more than any other country in the region. At its annual meeting being held this week in the bustling Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, the African Development Bank is more upbeat about the continent's growth prospects, perhaps more than ever before, thanks in large part to a surge in commodity prices on the international markets, particularly oil and minerals.

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