It is still early to conclude that the white rhino has disappeared in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) despite years of conflicts in the Central African country, according to the local nature conservation authority.

DR Congo has almost lost no species of its fauna or flora over the past five decades since its independence, Cosma Wilungula, head of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), told the U.N.-run Radio Okapi in an interview on Sunday. In reply to the alleged disappearance of white rhino in DR Congo, Wilungula made the affirmation that it is difficult to say at this hour if it has totally disappeared from the country.

“Profound researches” are needed before the conclusion of “its total disappearance,” he said. “All the other species could have diminished in large numbers, but they are all maintained,” the official added.

The ICCN chief stressed that DR Congo is the only country in the world to pay a heavy price for the conservation and protection of its natural resources.

“The difficulties still exist in facing the professional poaching while the guards of parks are not enough and there is lack of equipment,” he added.

The response from the guards of parks is not always effective to professional poachers or armed groups, he admitted. “We knew about the worrisome situation concerned with the invasion of all our protected areas by armed groups. But there was the tripartite coalition of Uganda, Sudan and DR Congo to hunt down the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the national park of Garamba, the Rwandan Forces democratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) in the national parks of Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega,” said the official.

The official referred to a joint military operation launched early last year to crack down on the rebel groups holed up in border areas for years to make trouble inside DR Congo or between neighbouring countries.

The ICCN chief attributed those efforts to the consolidation of peace in the protected areas.

DR Congo has seven national parks and around 60 hunting and reserved areas under the ICCN, accounting for almost 11 percent of the national territory.