Ivory poaching has ballooned out of control in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Garamba National Park, DRC. (Photo: Nuria Ortega)

Elephant herd in Garamba Park, DRC. (Photo: Nuria Ortega)

The director of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Spanish biologist Luis Arranz was recently interviewed about the severity of the problem.

Arranz says The government of DR Congo has no money to fund the park, and if the European Union stops the funding it provides to the African Parks Foundation to manage the park, and APF staff were to leave, in one year there would be no elephants or hippopotamus left.

“In the sixties,” he observes, “Garamba had one of the largest populations of white rhino in Africa, there were about 1,200, now there is not a single one left.”

The Park contains the four largest land mammals in the world: the elephant, the rhinoceros, the giraffe and the hippopotamus.

Wildlife rangers for Garamba National Park. (Photo: Nuria Ortega)

Arranz and a team of nearly 240 people, 140 guards among them, work to protect a vast area of about 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of virgin forest, home to a population of more than 2.300 elephants.

Confiscated elephant parts from poachers. (Photo: Nuria Ortega)

The guards are encountering bigger groups of poachers with increasingly sophisticated weapons. Armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda are now killing elephants for their ivory.

The problem is China, where rising incomes have led to an insatiable demand for ivory, historically a valuable cultural item in Asia.