Monday, April 16, 2012

A Week of Meetings Regards the Challenges that Await Us

Since my last post we’ve spent over a week in a series of workshops and other meetings planning with our local partners about the task ahead over the next six months, namely, defining the elements needed to be included in a new General Management Plan (GMP) for Kundelungu and Upemba National Parks located here in Katanga, DRC/Congo.  We’ve been impressed by both the officials we will work with as well as the on-governmental partners that have carried the banner of conservation and good governance over the years here in Katanga.  In some cases like the two gentleman in the photo below they have struggled right through years of war and chaos and still have a smile on their faces--it is truly impressive!  See also the photo of the two chief park rangers below  we are collaborating with--they also face stupendous barriers of all kinds (more later).  Michael McBride is with them as well as one of the deputy rangers...

 Frere Louis, a Belgian priest (the man on the right in the photo at left has created a local NGO that works for the poor and protection of nature in the areas outside the two parks which are the point of our work.  Michael (in his blog) has discussed some of the dramatic poaching events that have occurred here over the years--one recently (March 2012) that supposedly led to the death of the “last elephant” in Kundelungu Park.  Part of the task in the next few months is to better document via on-the-ground and aerial surveys what is the objective status of elephants and other wildlife in both parks and the level of threats facing them, e.g. poaching, agricultural encroachment, illegal fishing, settlement expansion.  We do know that there are still elephants in Upemba park though they are being blocked from their traditional migration corridor by agricultural expansion and settlement; restoring this corridor is one of the primary goals of the project here.  Michael has also discussed more about this in his blog.

The second gentleman in the middle of the left photo above--the man with the green medallion on his chest--is a true hero--one who has quietly gone about trying to bring peace, healing,  and restoration of civil order in what could be perceived as a country with insurmountable odds stacked against it--be it governmental, environmental, ethical, or commercial.  Michael has also discussed more about what our partners face here on a daily basis--be it inefficiency and outright corruption at the official level or as well as the expected result from years of social chaos and rampant poverty, poaching, private sector wantonness, and ultimately, degradation of civil order and environmental integrity that are the foundation stones of any society. 

It is very easy to become pessimistic about the future of societies such as DRC/Congo; any Google search of just about any topic, e.g. mining, environment, peace, health, poverty--will bring up all kinds of negative examples but my hope is that you the reader will recognize that the average citizen of places like the Congo are just like us--they want to raise their families in peace and security, and they want to assure that the abundant natural resources found here in DRC are truly utilized in ways that will make life for their kids better than what they faced.  Though working here is very difficult, it is worth the effort to help people here and everywhere get the chance for a better life.

Over the next few days we will be going to the field to get a better feel on the ground; and my colleague Steve Schill from The Nature Conservancy has now also joined us to help with some quantitative/spatial analysis that will be better assist planning and implementation of the general management plan.  My blogging will depend on access to the internet which could be sparse over the next few days.  


  1. Thanks very much. See most recent blogs from more work there -