Johannesburg. 29 September 2016. Gabon National Parks Agency today announced the establishment of an Anti-Poaching Rapid Response Task Force during CITES COP17 world wildlife conference, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Task Force has been established in line with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba’s unwaivering commitment to address poaching in the Central African Nation.
Parcs Gabon, the National Parks Agency of Gabon, announced that it will work with the South African-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation to capacitate the new Anti-Poaching Rapid Reaction Task Force. The Ichikowitz Family Foundation has a strong track record of conservation leadership within Africa having financed anti-poaching initiatives for over six years. Their support for Parcs Gabon includes the immediate donation of a Gazelle helicopter and pilot training, specialist ranger training and equipment for anti-poaching officers, and the establishment of a K9 training facility in Gabon to address the on-going poaching of the countries forest elephant population.
These capabilities will advance President Ali Bongo’s strong and dynamic leadership in global wildlife conservation over the last seven years. President Ali Bongo and his government through Gabon Parcs, have shown extraordinary leadership in changing the way the continent approaches conservation and have lead the way in the protection of one of the world’s most valuable assets, the rainforest of the Congo basin and its endangered species.
In support of President Bongo’s zero tolerance policy towards poaching, Parcs Gabon will establish a special rapid reaction task force with the following objectives:
- Rapid response to poaching and trafficking situations throughout Gabon
- React to incidents in remote forrest areas
- Address trans-national poaching through effectively tracking and arresting poachers
- Combat poaching activities that are increasingly becoming more violent in nature
Professor Lee White, Director of Parcs Gabon, said: “Gabon’s natural heritage and wildlife is one of our greatest national assets and our park rangers do all they can to protect it. Poaching by organised criminal networks has become increasingly violent in the past two years and this has forced us to refine our anti-poaching strategy and how we equip our Eco-guards. Our partnership with the Ichikowitz Family Foundation has enabled us to access valuable equipment and training and our new rapid response capabilities will ensure we are even better equipped to preserve our natural heritage.”
The announcement builds on the existing philanthropic partnership between the Ichikowitz Family Foundation to train Gabon’s national park rangers to combat the illegal poaching of endangered forest elephants.
Ivor Ichikowitz, founder of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation said: “I want to commend the efforts by the the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, and Parcs Gabon in intensifying the fight against the menace of poaching. We are privileged to be partnered with these giants of African conservation. This special conservation force will enhance the tremendous efforts already made by the Government of Gabon which is doing everything practically possible to protect the most important populations of forest elephants on the planet.”
“Gabon has worked tirelessly against the menace of poaching and we’re proud to deepen our existing partnership with the new rapid response capabilities announced today. Our experience in recent years has been that there is no better solution than well-trained boots on the ground operating closely with a fast reaction force from the air.”
John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivory, the Joint Secretariat to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), said:
“Nearly 90 percent of Gabon consists of rain forest, which shelters close to a remarkable 60 percent of Africa’s remaining forest elephants – this means that Gabon has been a poaching hot spot for several years and so every effort made to protect this shrinking population is worth it.
“It is both exciting and humbling to see the support for Gabon’s front line wildlife protection forces from the Ichikowitz Family Foundation. True to the EPI’s mandate, of which Gabon is a founding member, it is support from private sector and other key stakeholders that will help reverse the rampant poaching levels that Gabon has been experiencing.”