Some questions for Wildlife Conservation Society about its partnership with loggers in the Republic of Congo

On 29 October 2017, Conservation Watch wrote about how Wildlife Conservation Society is partnering with two logging companies in the buffer zone of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.

Conservation Watch’s post was based on the findings of a recent report by Survival International, titled, “How will we survive?”.

Conservation Watch sent a series of questions to David Wilkie, Executive Director of Conservation Measures and Communities at WCS. Two weeks later, Wilkie has not replied. I resent the questions today.

In the meantime, here are Conservation Watch’s questions. I look forward to posting Wilkie’s response in full and unedited when it arrives.

  1. Survival International’s report states that,

    “National parks and other protected areas have been imposed on their lands without their consent, often with little or no consultation. Some of the world’s largest conservation organizations, principally the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), were the key players involved in this carve-up of indigenous lands.”

    What is WCS’s response to this accusation?
  2. In 1993, WCS convinced the government of the Republic of Congo to create the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. The park was established without the free, prior and informed consent of the Bayaka indigenous people, who lost access to a large area of their ancestral forests. WCS’s Mike Fay later commented that the Bayaka are “a gracious people, too kind to put up a fight for their rights”. What is WCS’s response to the accusations of this abuse of the Bayaka’s rights?
  3. WCS then partnered with two logging companies operating in the buffer zone of the park, and organised, together with the Congolese government, anti-poaching patrols in the logging concessions. Did WCS obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Bayaka before entering into partnerships with the logging companies? Did the logging companies obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Bayaka before starting to log their forests?
  4. In May 1999 the IRIN news agency reported that the ban on hunting was making life for the Bayaka “even more difficult”. Community members reported increased malnutrition in children and vulnerable adults. Eco-guards have beaten Bayaka men and women and destroyed their houses. Does WCS acknowledge the problems that the conservation measures are having on the livelihoods of the Bayaka? Does WCS acknowledge the violence against the Bayaka at the hands of the eco-guards? Has WCS produced any reports about the violence? What actions has WCS taken to stop the violence?
  5. Has WCS reported cases of rights abuse and violence against the Bayaka to the government of the Republic of Congo? What actions has the government taken as a result of these reports? Does WCS consider these actions to be adequate? And if not, what is WCS’s course of action with the government if the government fails to take meaningful steps to prevent future acts of violence?
  6. Survival International has documented a long list of abuses against the Bayaka at the hands of wildlife guards (page 76 to page 94 of the report). Does WCS accept that these abuses took place? What has WCS done to prevent such abuses taking place in the future?
  7. A 2007 report by a team of UN Special Rapporteurs raised concern at the treatment of the Bayaka, and reported “numerous cases of discrimination” 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”. What actions has WCS taken as a result of this report?
  8. Survival International reports 12 incidents of violence against the Bayaka in 2016. The violence has continued long after WCS became aware of it. How do you explain this? What actions is WCS taking to prevent future violence against the Bayaka?
  9. Survival International asks WWF, WCS and their government partners to seek the consent Baka and Bayaka if they are to continue their work in the Congo Basin. Does WCS intend to carry out a (somewhat belated) process of free, prior and informed consent with the Bayaka relating to their future work in the Republic of Congo? If not, why not?
  10. Earlier this year, in the publication “Reserved!”, you wrote, “We now understand that wildlife and natural resources are most likely to be conserved and used sustainably when the people whose wellbeing depends on these resources manage them.” This is not the current situation in and around Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. WCS is partnering with logging companies to manage the forests, not the Bayaka. Isn’t this a case of WCS saying the right thing, but doing something else entirely?

 

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