The Salonga National park is the most orotund tropical timberland on earth. It covers roughly 36,000 square kilometers of savanna forest and lowland rain forest (Zoological society of Milwaukee, 2009). Located in the central Congo Basin between Kisingani and Kinshasha, this park is very isolated such that it is only water, which accesses it. It falls under almost two equal portions; the northern and southern portion each with robust flora and fauna. In 1970, the need to preserve endangered species like bonobo, led to creation of this illustrious national park.
Salonga National park boasts of racy and diverse forest habitants with versatile floristic associations. Woods Hole Research Center (2009) posits that riparian, upland and inundated forests are typical of this park. The flora consists of evergreen and semi-evergreen forests with biomes of grasslands extending towards the southern portion. Different animal species inhabit this park creating a copious fauna and unique eco-region, which distinguishes Salonga form the other national parks.
The animals here include antelope species, forest elephants and different species of monkeys. However, the salient animal species is the bonobo, actually the need to preserve these rare primate species is the origin of Salonga National Park. Under the gushing rivers and streams that cut across this region, are fish with over 40 different species estimated to exist.
Due to its remote nature, human habitation is minimal with less than 2000 people living inside the park. Human habitation accounts for less than 0.05 persons per square kilometer (Woods Hole Research Center, 2009). The biological interrelationships among the life forms here is vivacious resulting into sustainable ecosystems. Naturally, flora and fauna co-exist together with sustainable interdependence that allows either side to thrive. In most cases, human activities disrupt this smooth co-existence causing extinction of some animal or plant species. Salonga has not escaped from the wanton destruction of trees and intense illegal poaching by people.
Report by Woods Hole research Center (2009) indicates that, poaching of conserved rare species is the conterminous human intrusions threatening the area. Poaching escalated during the civil war that plunged Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the year 1996 and 1999. Due to its isolation nature, Salonga offered a perfect hiding place for rebels who were well equipped with automatic weapons and ammunitions. Game hunting became common and the extensive river systems running through the forest provided a transport system for meat transportation. Logging is not rampant though experts warn that continued human activities in the area would result to massive logging if not controlled.
Even though the civil war ceased in 1999, World Heritage Site (2005) submits that Salonga National Park has been in the ‘In Danger List’ since 1999 due to volatile political environment in the country. This led to implementation of intense measures to protect the park from wanton destruction of trees and poaching. DRC’s World Heritage Sites-in-Danger collaborated with United Nations Foundations (UNF) through the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to avail funds to protect the area (Zoological society of Milwaukee, 2009). The funds go to training, motivating and equipping park guards to fend off any form of destruction. Anti-poaching patrols are in place to ensure that Salonga is impregnable. These are the existing protection measures taken to safeguard the park.
In an attempt to further protection measures, a group of activists launched an initiative to protect bonobos. This initiative seeks to appeal for funds to facilitate varied strategies that will conserve these rare primates. The board of directors of the initiative include Almquist A, Green C, Coxe J, Johnson F. and Rosen N among others (Bonobo Initiative, 2002). The initiative seeks to mobilize like-minded people across the globe, building international relationships to ensure that this area remain conserved.
As an individual, one can help greatly to protect this area. This includes taking responsibility and knowing that it is a personal responsibility to conserve nature. If the poachers who obliterate these precious innocent animals could take the responsibility to conserve them, then this park would be secure. Human activities cause destruction. Without human intrusions, no extinction of any species ever occurred in human history, save for the dinosaurs thought to have died out from challenges of changing environment. This indicates clearly that, human beings are solely responsible for destruction of flora and fauna leading to their extermination. Interestingly, human beings too, hold the key conservation of natural resources like the Salonga National Park.
Individuals can also contribute by donating cash towards conservation of this forest. Individuals can donate through initiatives like Bonobo Conservation Initiative or through any other enterprise supporting conservation of the same. People can also educate others on the need to conserve forests and this will foster conservation measures though indirectly.
Application of additional measures towards this conservation would supplement the current ones because they are not exhaustive. Creating public awareness is the first crucial step towards conservation. People may poach and cause deforestation due to ignorance or lack of information. People in this remote part of DRC may genuinely not know the importance of forest conservation together with its resources. Running campaigns across the whole region would hike the conservation measures. As indicated earlier, human beings are the main culprits in deforestation and poaching. Consequently, targeting these perpetrators will be solving the problem from the grass roots: a sure way of solving any stalemate.
The government should formulate policies that support the conservation efforts. This would include passing and implementing laws governing conservation of natural resources. There are laws currently, but given the fickle political environment, proper implementation of these laws is demanding. Stiffer penalties need implementation and enactment to ward off poachers. However, this calls for political stability in the region. Efforts to restore political stability would indirectly foster conservation measures in the forest.
Training park guards would also propel the conservation measures to greater heights. Currently the stakeholders only organize workshops to train these guards. This exercise runs for several weeks and is hardly enough in this changing world. A full time training center would provide a well-informed contingent of park guards. The world is changing and poachers are going hi-tech which will muzzle any conservation measures if the stakeholders fail to foster marching hi -tech skills and training.
Promoting local tourism would also promote conservation because this gives citizens an opportunity to explore and appreciate what is theirs. Domestic tourists would then become ambassadors in advocating for conservation. Creating more employment opportunities would work too, because some poachers do it for lack of a better thing to do. Fencing the whole park with electricity fence may offer a short-term solution to poaching. Evicting all people inhabiting the forest would serve the purpose but ethical considerations rock the move.
If human intrusion goes on unabated, a lot is set to disappear. According to Thompson and Furuichi (2007), the threatened species in Sanonga National Park include bonobo, Congo peacock, the forest elephant and chimpanzees among others. All these rare species are marked for extinction if implementation of drastic measures fails to take off soon. This would result into loss of the greatest tropical timberland in the world. With continued logging, the rivers will run dry and what once stood out in the whole world would remain but only as fancy memories. The government will lose a great source of revenue generation because tourists will be no more. This would plunge the country into deeper juncture given the prevailing political instability.
The park guards will lose jobs and many more livelihoods thrown into disarray if protecting Salonga fails to kick-start immediately. There will be wildlife-man crisis resulting to both human and animal loss of life. As human activities continue to encroach in the area, animals like elephants will retaliate and the ensuing melee would result to life loss. However, wildlife will be the first losers though human beings will feel the pinch subsequently.
Is there any viable solution to this impasse? Many options exist. International communities arise to support this noble course of saving the famous Salonga National Park. It does not matter where you are geographically; make it your business to save this natural resource threatened with defunctness. Support UNESCO in its bid to promote sustainable conservation in this region. The authorities of DRC settle your conflicts because prosperity and sustainability of your national resources depend largely on the political climate you create. Well-wishers and environmental activists become proactive in saving this forest. Solicit for more funds sufficient to sustain the conservation exercise. Together we can achieve what an individual cannot achieve, so let us come together and save the Salonga National Park from extermination.
Bonobo Initiative. (2002). Testimony presented by The Bonobo Conservation Initiative. Web.
Thompson, J. & Furuichi, T. (2007). The Bonobos Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Web.
Woods Hole Research Center. (2009). Salonga National Park, DRC. Web.
World Heritage Site. (2005). Salonga National Park. Web.
Zoological society of Milwaukee. (2009). Salonga National Park Support. Web.