Ecoguards of Central Africa
- Ecoguard Photo
- Through frequent data collection and patrol efforts, ecoguards help to inform WCS of what is happening in protected areas. They also play a key role in monitoring and tracking wildlife populations.
- Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS
When civil strife erupts in remote, wild places, ecoguards often find themselves on the frontlines of conservation—and as the sole representatives of the law. These men and women know the land, the people and their hardships, and are truly the eyes and ears for conservationists. They work not only to protect national parks and surrounding lands, but also to help evaluate the success of international conservation efforts.
WCS supports and trains ecoguards around the world. In some wild places, their presence deters illegal activities such as hunting, mining, and logging. But often, the guards must seek these operations out. As they patrol an area on foot, they look for signs of hunting camps, snares, gun cartridges, and wildlife carcasses. They also deduce how recently the activity may have occurred—a crucial step for catching up with offenders and making effective arrests.
With their frequent data collection and patrol efforts, the guards help to inform WCS, nearly in “real time,” of what is happening in protected areas. In addition, they play a key role in helping to track and monitor wildlife populations, and in observing their health and behaviors.
The prevention of poaching is the most important and most difficult part of an ecoguard’s job. Ecoguards are often the first people to confront poachers, and they may make arrests if they find evidence of illegal activity. Frequently, hunters are part of larger illegal bushmeat or ivory networks that supply urban and international markets. They may be armed with automatic weapons, especially when seeking highly prized, illegal commodities. As a result, the ecoguards who challenge them often risk their lives.
Unfortunately, ecoguards are often poorly equipped, especially in comparison to the formidable mercenary poachers whom they face. In addition, they are often inadequately paid and sometimes may not receive their salaries at all, a hardship that is especially common during times of civil strife, when they are most needed.
- Ensure ecoguards are skilled not only in forest survival and facing wild animals, but also in effective law enforcement
- Train ecoguards to serve as ambassadors of park management and work to ensure that local communities are aware of conservation laws and protected areas
- Support ecoguard checkpoints along timber roads—the main routes out of the forest, and often a major conduit for bushmeat and ivory smuggling
What WCS is Doing
WCS works in partnership with local governments to recruit and train ecoguards. Through these collaborations, we help communities to manage their natural resources sustainably, and to combat illegal commercial exploitation. In Chad, the Republic of Congo
, Central African Republic, Gabon
, Democratic Republic of Congo
, and Rwanda
, we have assisted with funding and equipping wildlife services personnel, such as with handheld GPS/data recorders that monitor human and wildlife activity in protected areas. As a result of our assistance in maintaining staffed checkpoints outside of the large timber concessions that often surround Central African protected areas, many of these forestry concessions have healthy populations of wild animals.
By making a donation to support ecoguards working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you'll help buy tents, rain jackets, boots, and GPS systems and help pay for additional patrol missions to save endangered Grauer's gorillas, forest elephants, and other wildlife at risk.Please donate today.
From the Newsroom
In the battle against the illegal ivory trade that is decimating elephants, conservation groups are turning to technological solutions to better assist local security forces. WCS's Emma Stokes describes one: the free, open-source Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, or SMART—an innovative software application recently designed to help rangers curb wildlife trade.
As organized crime steps up its game in wildlife trade, a WCS conservationist suggests fighting back through increased law enforcement and better use of resources.