IUCN - Last home of the endangered northern white rhino

Last home of the endangered northern white rhino

14 September 2010 | Fact sheet

Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Background:

Garamba National Park is an IUCN Management Category II (National Park) in Zaire. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1980, it is the only place left for the northern white rhinoceros. A park since 1925, it is now managed by the Institut Zairois pour la Conservation de la Nature, a public institution with legal status under the authority of the State Commission for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism.
 
The park is under the overall control of the headquarters station Nagero, with a secondary station, Gangala-na-Bodio, which also controls the southern and western hunting reserves. The park is surrounded by three hunting areas which act as buffer zones on the east, west, and north (totalling about 1 million ha). Garamba is famous for the African Elephant Domestication Centre at Gangala-na-Bodio, south-west of the park. A successful tourist operation has been started, using elephant-back safaris which brings much needed finance to the restoration and anti-poaching projects for the park.

View photos of the park


Size and location:

Size: 492,000 ha.

The park is situated in the Uele District, north-east Zafre, on the Sudan border contiguous in the north-east to Lantoto (Nile-Zafre watershed), contiguous in the north to Lantoto Game Reserve in Sudan and is surrounded in Zafre by three hunting areas totalling about 1,000,000 ha.

Flora and fauna

The park's position, between the Guinean and Sudanese biogeographic realms, makes it particularly interesting. Three formations can be distinguished, namely gallery forest, forest clumps and marshland; aquatic and semi-aquatic associations; and savannas ranging from dense woodland to virtually treeless grassland. The densely wooded savanna, gallery forests, and papyrus marshes of the north and west give way in the centre to more open tree/bush savanna, which merges into the long grass savanna that cover the major part of the park. The grasslands are dissected by numerous small rivers with valley grasslands and papyrus swamps.

The park contains probably the last viable natural population of the square-lipped or northern white rhinoceros. They currently number 23 and are on the IUCN list of the world's 12 most threatened animals. Elephant Loxodonta africana (V) is an unique population representing an intermediary form on the cline between the forest and savanna sub-species, but has been reduced by nearly three-quarters by poaching, to between 4,000-4,500. Other mammals include northern savanna giraffe (occuring nowhere else in Zaire), hippopotamus, buffalo, hartebeest, waterbuck, chimpanzees, olive baboon, and four other species of monkey, two species of otter, five species of mongoose, golden cat, lion, warthog, bushpig, roan antelope, and six other antelope species.

Threats

Poaching is the main threat to the park, with massive reductions in populations of endangered species such as the rhino and the elephant. In the 1960s, the rhino population was estimated to fall from 1,000-1,300 to about 100, and elephants were almost certainly also poached. Numbers then rose again and the second major loss from poaching was in the late 1970s when poaching for ivory and rhino horn increased dramatically over most of Africa. The area was particularly vulnerable, being very far from control or support by the headquarters in Kinshasa and being on the border of three countries that had suffered civil unrest with the associated availability of weapons.

Since March 1984, the IUCN/WWF/FZS/Unesco Garamba Rehabilitation Project has been working with IZCN staff on the rehabilitation of the park infrastructure and on anti-poaching. It has provided equipment and expertise and has carried out considerable construction and maintenance, training and monitoring. This collaboration has enabled an increase in the intensity and effectiveness of anti-poaching and surveillance. The IZCN has increased salaries and other support and weapons to equal those of the poachers. A road network and five new patrol posts have been built within the park. Mobile foot patrols are taken out from the main stations in rotation, so that there are two patrols of eight guards each in the rhino area at any one time. Poaching is now largely under control in the southern part of the park and is mainly only for meat in the north. Since the project began there have been eight rhino births.