In 1993, the Wildlife Conservation Society convinced the government of the Republic of Congo to create the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. It covers an area of 4,238.7 square kilometres. The park was set up without the consent of the indigenous Bayaka people, who lost a large part of their ancestral forests as a result of the park. The Bayaka are not allowed to enter the park. WCS still runs the park in partnership with the Congolese Ministry of Ministry of Forestry Economy and Sustainable Development.
WCS partnered with two logging companies operating in the buffer zone of the park: the company with the largest logging concessions in the country, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB); and Industrie Forestière de Ouesso (IFO). WCS and the Congolese government organised anti-poaching patrols inside the logging concessions.
The Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is featured on WCS’s website, under a list of “Wild Places”. WCS makes no mention of the Bayaka. Instead the website states that,
The NNNP is a rare example of an intact forest wilderness, completely uninhabited by human settlers and with extremely low human population densities in the surrounding area.
A new report by Survival International, titled “How will we survive?” describes the impact that these “conservation” measures have had on the Bayaka and their livelihoods. The report is available here.
The report also documents the impacts of WWF’s conservation activities in the Congo Basin. Conservation Watch sent some questions to Frederick Kwame Kumah, director of WWF’s Regional Office in Africa, and you can read WWF’s response (which evades answering many of the questions) here.
Conservation Watch has also sent a series of questions to David Wilkie, the Executive Director of Conservation Measures and Communities at WCS about Survival International’s report. WCS’s response will be posted in full when it arrives.
Survival International’s report states that the Bayaka and Baka indigenous peoples “have been victims of intimidation and abuse by wildlife guards supported by WCS and these logging companies – even a handicapped man and children have been assaulted”.
Since at least 2005, WCS has been aware of the persecution, but has taken no meaningful action.
In 2013, WCS helped create the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park on the Luma and Bongili indigenous peoples’ land. The park was created without their free, prior and informed consent. A 2016 report found that,
The creation of the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park (PNNP) was carried out in violation of the forestry classification procedure and without the consent of the most impacted local and indigenous communities and risks depriving them of their three principal and unique means of subsistence.
The report also states that, the National Park,
will deprive local communities and indigenous peoples of the Pikounda district of their only means of subsistence because the decree creating the PNNP has prohibited any human activity inside the Park and has restricted the activities within a radius of five kilometres around the Park. If the law is followed to the letter, the people of Pikounda will be forced to migrate to survive or find themselves in a guerrilla war against the eco-guards.
Survival International’s report includes a detailed timeline of the problems that the National Parks, logging companies and the eco-guards have caused for indigenous communities living in the area. The following are just a few extracts from the timeline:
- In May 1999, the IRIN news agency reported that the ban on hunting was making life for the Bayaka “even more difficult”:
According to some members of the community, the ban on hunting, implemented by the “eco-guards”, who are in charge of the protection of the animals in CIB’s logging concessions, resulted in an increase in cases of malnutrition among children and vulnerable adult populations.
- A Greenpeace visit to CIB’s logging concession in December 2004 reported that wildlife guards had beaten a Bayaka man, and taken his meat.
- A 2005 report by L’Observatoire congolais des droits de l’homme (OCDH) includes three accounts of violence against the Bayaka at the hands of wildlife guards. The report states that some Bayaka are “dying of hunger” and that the eco-guards are “instilling a real psychosis of fear” among the Bayaka.
- In 2007, a team of UN Special Rapporteurs raised concern at the treatment of the Bayaka. They reported “numerous cases of violence and discrimination” against the Bayaka, and “a general atmosphere of repeated or even systematic violence”. They added that, the treatment suffered by the Bayaka “is linked to racial discrimination against them”.
- In 2013, a Bayaka man and woman were beaten by wildlife guards. The guards destroyed the woman’s home and property.
- Survival International reports 12 incidents of violence against the Bayaka in 2016. Eco-guards beat Bayaka men and women, destroyed houses and camps, and stole meat. One Bayaka man told Survival International how the eco-guards prevented the Bayaka from going into the forest:
If you go into the park they will get you and take you to prison. Even not in the park they say: “We’re going to kill you. Get out, get out, get out.”