Park support and guard training

Park Support and Guard Training

Guard supplies

The Salonga National Park is one of the least-developed and under-staffed parks in DRC. Patrol posts and park guards in the Salonga lack the equipment and training to conduct effective patrols and enforce conservation laws. For example, most patrol posts lack radios, camping equipment, field clothes, transportation and rations in order to coordinate anti-poaching activities. BCBI builds the capacity of the national park through material and technical support to the ICCN and works with ICCN guards in the Watsi Kengo Sector, primarily at the Watsi Kengo Station and the Etate and Lotulo Patrol Posts.

Watsi Kengo Station

Fuel stocks
Fuel stocks for anti-poaching patrols

BCBI provides support to the Watsi Kengo Station, headquarters of the northern block of the park. BCBI supplies patrol equipment such as two-way radios, GPSs for patrol navigation, and pirogues and fuel for river patrols on the Salonga and Yenge Rivers, salary bonuses for non-matriculated guards, and ration funds for emergency patrols. Moreover, BCBI annually donates items, such as laptops and office supplies, for day-to-day administration and data transfer.

Etate and Lotulo Patrol Posts

BCBI fully supports the Etate and Lotulo Patrol Posts by meeting their basic needs for land and river patrols and bio-monitoring. For example, BCBI annually provides all patrol rations to the guards of these two posts. In addition, we donate field equipment such as pirogues, out-board engines, fuel, two-way radios, boots, raincoats, tarps, flashlights, cooking pots and utensils, compasses, patrol maps, and GPS units.

Support also includes dry food stocks, medicines, and salary bonuses. With the support from BCBI, these strategically located patrol posts coordinate effective anti-poaching patrols and deter poaching in the northwest portion of the Watsi Kengo Sector. BCBI also trains guards in the use and care of equipment and regularly inventories donated supplies.

In summary, BCBI provides approximately $40,000 in material support (2012-13) to the Watsi Kengo Sector to enhance its anti-poaching capacity.

Guard Training

Training guards in navigation and map reading

Without proper training, Salonga park guards are forced to restrict their patrols to areas that are known to them (camps, trails and pathways). Without unique landmarks and geographic features to guide them, it is difficult for them to know or describe their exact location, where they might encounter poaching or wildlife. Moreover, it is difficult for them to navigate across unfamiliar areas. Poachers, on the other hand, often go off main trails and head deep into the park. To address this problem, BCBI instructs park guards in navigation and bio-monitoring. Guards learn how to use a compass, read maps, and how to take headings to pre-determined destinations. Finally, patrol leaders learn how to navigate with a GPS unit. For guards who lack basic reading and writing skills (about 60% of guards), BCBI provides literacy instruction at Etate.

After years of training, the Etate guards today form one of the most advanced patrols in bio-monitoring in all of the Salonga. Using GPS, maps and compasses, they plan patrol routes, navigate across unknown forests throughout their patrol area on foot, and geographically reference each bonobo, elephant and human sign they encounter. These guard-based data inform park headquarters about animal distribution and where major poaching threats exist. 

BCBI regularly provides training to Etate guards as well as guards from other patrol posts. To date, BCBI has trained 27 guards and patrol leaders in the Salonga National Park.

BCBI maps patrol waypoints in order to view patrol routes and spatially analyze animal distribution. These data are used to pinpoint species’ occurrence and target anti-poaching activities throughout the surveillance area. Because the Etate guards have become proficient in using GPS, they have navigated to unknown parts of the park and created many new patrol routes. Over the past decade, Etate guards have expanded their surveillance area to 1,000 km2, the largest land patrol area of any patrol post in the park. Their patrols have given us over five consecutive years of data on where bonobos, forest elephants, other animals, and human signs occur.

Etate is a model for effective guard surveillance for monitoring wildlife and human activity. In 2011-2012, Etate guard data showed the effects of a major anti-poaching operation on animal and poaching distribution. They showed a threefold increase in elephant dung-pile encounter rates and a tenfold decrease in human presence after the beginning of the operation. (Preliminary Before and After Maps)

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