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The wilderness and the war

January 16, 2018

Against the backdrop of civil war in the Central African Republic, conservationists are working to protect and preserve the wilderness.

Central African Republic: elephants in Dzanga Sangha National Park
Image: Jürgen Schneider

Wildlife in areas of armed conflict

Project size: The Dzanga-Sangha National Park in the Central African Republic (CAR) extends over almost 7,000 square kilometers (4,349 square miles) and is part of the larger tri-national protected area, which together make up 28,000 square kilometers in the CAR, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon
Project goal: Preserve the forest and protect the unique population of wild animals living there, which include forest elephants, lowland gorillas, situanga and bongo antelopes
Project funding: By 2012, the tri-national forest conservation project had received some €1.5 million ($1.2 million) in International Climate Initiative (IKI) funding. Today, the overall budget is between 2 and 2.5 million euros, 75 percent of which comes from German sources
Biodiversity: Aside from many other often endangered species, about 1,300 forest elephants and 2,000 gorillas live in the project area.

The long-running civil war in the Central African Republic is taking its toll on the country's animal population. Parties to the conflict often eat what they find in the wild — including endangered species — or they sell ivory in order to finance weapons. It takes unique people to protect wild animals and nature in such a situation. Luis Arranz is one of them. The Spaniard has beenWWF park manager of CAR's Dzanga-Sangha National Park since the beginning of 2017. He is no stranger to conservation in conflict areas. Working with national park staff and local experts, he is fighting to protect forest elephants and gorillas. But as the war rages around them, the animals face the very real threat of falling prey to deadly violence.

A film by Jürgen Schneider



The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is facing allegations of human rights violations in Asia and Africa. There has been too little oversight of the human rights aspects of some WWF projects, according to an external investigation by consultancy firm Löning – Human Rights & Responsible Business, in May 2019. WWF International has contracted a British law firm to respond to these criticisms.