GABON: Ecoguard strike threatens wildlife conservation

The Ecoguards of the National Agency for National Parks of Gabon (ANPN) are angry. Had it not been for the conciliatory will of the executives (director of human resources [DRH] and financial director) recently appointed within the ANPN, yet another general movement of indefinite strike would have broken out on January 14, 2022 within the agency. “We give them three months to take the file in hand”, said Sosthène Ndong Engonga, president of the National Union of Ecoguards of Gabon (SYNEG).

It is since 2021 that these guardians of fauna and flora have been pushing claims. From the strike observed throughout May 2021 to the one that was suspended on January 14, 2022, the demands have not changed. These are mainly the payment of salary arrears, the allocation of complementary health insurance and the audit of the ANPN. In addition to these claims, SYNEG denounces the unfair dismissal of an ecoguard, which occurred in 2021.

Forest elephants threatened by poaching

The eco-guards are paramilitaries under the supervision of the ANPN, a branch of the Gabonese presidency. The ANPN manages the network of 13 national parks created in the country in 2002 by the former President of the Republic Omar Bongo Ondimba. These 13 national parks represent approximately 11% of the territory dedicated to the protection of the environment and biodiversity. Except that with the repeated strikes of the eco-guards, the parks are left at the mercy of poachers, whose main target is the forest elephant. These pachyderms are slaughtered for their tusks, sold between 1,000 and 2,000 euros per kilogram on the Chinese market.

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According to the ANPN, nearly 14,000 forest elephants have been slaughtered in less than 10 years in Minkebe Park alone, located in the far northeast of the country. Gabon is a sanctuary for forest elephants. The Central African country concentrates more than 50% of the African population of forest elephants estimated in 2016 at 80,000 individuals.

Boris Ngounou

Betty T. Simpson