“Lawrence of the hyenas” talks Lord’s Resistance Army into sparing rhinos

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2006:
“Lawrence Anthony, founder of the South African
environmental group The Earth Organisation, has persuaded the Lord’s
Resistance Army to join with scientists to protect the northern white
rhino, of which only four are thought to remain in the wild,” London
Guardian environment correspondent David Adam reported on September
13, 2006.
“As part of an ongoing peace process,” Adam continued, “the
rebels have pledged not to harm the animals and to tell wildlife
experts if they see one.”
The LRA in 2005 invaded Garamba national park, “a sprawling
and densely forested reserve close to the Ugandan border in the far
northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Adam explained.
“The LRA is notorious for use of child soldiers and has been accused
of atrocities including rapes, mutilations and the mass murder of
civilians. Conservation seemed far from its priorities,
particularly after members shot dead 12 game rangers and eight
Guatemalan UN soldiers sent to the region to keep order.”


However, Anthony told Adam, “We heard that the political
wing of the LRA and the Ugandan government were having peace talks in
Sudan. We got word that some of the LRA leaders had come out of the
Garamba jungle to join the talks and decided to try to talk to them.
The LRA chair for the talks, Martin Ojul, was pointed out to me.
During a break in the talks, I simply walked up to him, introduced
myself, and explained the reason for my visit. His initial response
was distrust, covert hostility and no interest,” but the next day
Anthony was invited to talk to the rebels about the rhinos in their
own encampment.
Ignoring warnings that he might be held for ransom, Adam
wrote, Anthony learned from the rebels that the rhino is the totem
of the largest tribe in the region.
“I was surprised that despite the LRA’s fearsome reputation
some of the delegates were well-educated, articulate and friendly,”
Anthony said. “When I explained there were only four rhinos left in
the wild they were genuinely shocked. They thought there were still
hundreds of them. They said they did not eat rhino and did not use
the horn for medicinal purposes. They said they all grew up in the
bush and had strong cultural ties to all wildlife.”
Concluded Adam, “When the LRA officials signed a ceasefire
with the DRC government, it included pledges to protect the
endangered rhino and to allow the park rangers to resume their work
unmolested.”
Anthony, legendary among African wildlife researchers as “Lawrence
of the hyenas,” became known to the world when in April 2003 he made
his way to Baghdad from Kuwait, soon after the U.S. invasion of
Iraq, to begin rescue efforts at the Baghdad Zoo.
The LRA cooperation with Anthony followed the surrender of
“at least 1,181 poachers in the six districts surrounding Murchison
Falls National Park to the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the last one
and a half years,” including 600 who surrendered to senior park game
warden Stonewall Kato on September 1, reported Carolyn Ayugi and
Columbus Ono of the Kampala Monitor.
In Rwanda, meanwhile, “Barely two months after announcing
the extinction of rhinos in Rwanda, a black rhino has been seen in
Akagera National Park,” reported Robert Mukombozi of the Kigali New
Times.
The Rwandan government immediately allocated $600,000 toward
reintroducing additional rhinos, to be imported from Kenya and South
Africa for phased releases each spring until 2015.

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