Conservationists are pleading with the Congolese government to reverse the pay-to-poach decision.
On Thursday, environmentalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo urged the government to overturn a decision to tax rather than prohibit poaching, claiming that the move will jeopardize millions of dollars in conservation money.
“With this move to maximize earnings, the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature (ICCN) will not be able to fulfill its task of saving species in danger of extinction,” Cosma Wilungula, the organization’s chief, said during a press conference.
The DRC’s environment and finance ministries agreed last month to legalize the killing, ownership, and sale of protected animals in exchange for a tax.
A forest elephant now costs $2,885, while a mountain gorilla now costs $1,925 to kill, eat, or sell.
“This order eliminates (the crime of) unlawful trafficking of protected species,” Wilunga said, stressing that if the rule is upheld, supporters will be unable to pay out roughly $32 million in conservation funds each year.
With elephant ivory fetching up to $600 a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) on the local market and a baby gorilla worth $100,000, he added that the relatively low tax payments would provide a profit incentive for poaching.
The enormous Salonga national park in the DRC was recently removed off a list of vulnerable sites by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, recognizing conservation efforts for forest elephants and bonobo apes.