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Illegal charcoal seized and given to refugees
Authorities halt the illegal trade in natural resources around Virunga National Park
24 January 2008
Despite of the insecurity and the lack of access to the national parks, authorities around Virunga National Park are trying to tackle the illegal trade in natural resources.
Since the end of December the DR Congolese park authority, ICCN, has seized over 40 tonnes of charcoal during anti-illegal charcoal patrols north of Goma, around Virunga National Park. Charcoal burning has increased enormously as a result of the insecurity in the area.
After the ICCN received legal permission from the National Prosecutor of the DR Congo, 36 rangers were mobilized to halt the trucks full of illegally burned charcoal coming out of the protected areas. The seized charcoal has been transported to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the park. The camps that have benefitted are: Mugunga I, Mugunga II, Buhimba & Bulengo ? where a total of some 65,000 people have found refuge.
Early January 2008, a UN peacekeeping (MONUC) patrol close to Virunga National Park seized two infant lowland gorillas from poachers. They were seized after a very lengthy negotiation; no arrests were made. MONUC does not have the mandate nor the authority to make an arrest over a wildlife crime.
The peace pact signed on the 23rd of January 2008 by the movement of rebel ex-general Laurent Nkunda and other militias in eastern DR Congo's Kivu provinces, could lead to more security in this region. Whether this ?Act of Engagement? will soon provide safe access for ICCN to restart its monitoring activities in the Gorilla Sector of Virunga NP, remains unclear.