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Decades of war and mismanagement in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Congo have inflamed relations between indigenous people, whose survival depends on access to forest resources, and conservationists. A case emblematic of the debates on nature conservation.
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Amidst the vast expanses of rugged forest and rare biodiversity of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a few graves stand out in the vegetation. This tourist destination with a troubled history was the scene of conflicts, until a few years ago, between members of the Batwa people (also known as pygmies) and the 255 state eco-guards.
The former, deprived of land since the creation of the protected area in 1970, live in misery, while the latter defend the conservation of nature in this park known to host the only families of lowland gorillas in East Africa, a subspecies endemic to the DRC. Deforestation here is coupled with poaching and mineral exploitation, against a backdrop of regional armed conflict.
The complex reality of the place is emblematic of the debates that agitate the conservation community: How to preserve nature without affecting the populations that live where parks have been created?