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65 pct of animals in DR Congo's Garamba Park disappear

KINSHASA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- The Garamba National Park in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has lost about 65 percent of protected animal species in the last three decades, according to the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature (ICCN).

The Congolese institute on Monday reported that all the rhinos have almost disappeared, while the populations of giraffes, buffalos and elephants have reduced significantly.

According to Christian Amboya, a senior ranger of the park, today there is virtually no rhino in the park, years after more than 500 of the animals were registered in 1976.

"This is the same situation for elephants with only 1,800 of them still remaining out of the 25,000 that were in the park. Giraffes have reduced in number from 370 to 22, while buffalos have reduced to 4,000 from 60,000 by the end of 1970s," the game ranger said, accusing poachers of killing elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their teeth.

"We want to appeal for the arming of the local population to be able to protect the park, they should also condemn poaching and sensitize other members of the community to fight against poachers, " Amboya said.

Local Catholic church leaders like Bishop Benoit Kinalegu have joined in the fight against poaching. "They recently killed 22 elephants using their helicopters in Garamba park," he said.

To protect the remaining animals, the priest proposed the formation of a professional organization to fight against poaching in collaboration with game rangers from the Garamba National Park.

Garamba once had the highest number of white rhinos. It spreads from DR Congo to South Sudan, and from Central African Republic to Uganda.

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