In a decisive and sweeping action, Ivory Coast has deployed trained rangers into the Mount Peko National Park which is the home to vulnerable dwarf forest elephants. The government has finally had enough of the abuse of the park which extends to illegal hunting, squatter cocoa farmers and armed rebel militia.

70% occupied by squatter farmers

This week, AFP quoted the Colonel in charge of the country’s park and reserves, Adama Tondossama, as saying that “close to 70% of the park” is now utilized by squatter farmers from “neighbouring Burkina Faso.” Apart from placing pressure on the Animals that live within the reserve, the impact of forest cleaning for cocoa plants has resulted in huge loss of forest canopy.

Stripping forest resources

The local tribes’ people remove wood to create traditional carvings such as masks and the porous border of the reserve has impacted on the chimpanzee population, which is an endangered animal reliant on the remaining tropical forest of the Ivory Coast. The scarce and greatly threatened pygmy forest elephants that live in the forests are under even more threat as their habitat disappears.

Time to liberate the park

Forced removal of the farmers does not appear to be on the cards at present, but in his interview with AFP, the Colonel did say that rangers would enforce a ban on people making any new clearings in the parks’ forest. The parks authority will “liberate” the park from the abuse it is undergoing before matters deteriorate any further.

Ivory Coast was named for its elephants

The elephants of Ivory Coast are extremely vulnerable and are under grave threat through the loss of their forest habitat and from the demand for bush meat and ivory. Ironically, the country’s name refers to the elephants and their ivory that historically abounded there and the coat of arms bears an elephant head.

Elephants are important symbolic animals to the country, and it is vital that the authorities take action to preserve this iconic species for future generations.

Good governance is vital

Determined good governance is critical for the protection of natural resources as the effects of war and civil unrest on natural wilderness areas is devastation.

During the 2010-2011 unrest which followed an election, armed gangs lead by Amade Oueremi operated from the park. His arrest in 2013 has opened the way for rangers to get back on the ground and take control of this small reserve which represents one of the last and dwindling tropicalevergreenforests in West Africa.