Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nightmare in Mountain Gorilla Country

More trouble in mountain gorilla country. It just seems to get worse and worse.

Renegade troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are trying to forcibly enlist park rangers charged with protecting rare mountain gorillas, an animal welfare charity charged Sunday.

Forces loyal to cashiered general Laurent Nkunda, a powerful local leader, took control of the gorilla sector in Virunga national park as they fought with government troops, Wildlife Direct said.

Wildlife Direct chief Emmanuel de Merode urged the feuding sides to pull out of the park, warning: "They (gorillas) are not a target, but can so easily get caught in crossfire and shelling...."

Lucy Fauveau of the London Zoological Society said security situation was "appalling" and made it "virtually impossible" to work with the gorillas.

When fighting flared up late August, Nkunda's men attacked ICCN gorilla patrol posts and looted weapons, ammunition and communication equipment.

A subsequent UN-mediated armistice unravelled, pushing fighting from the displaced countryside to the dense park.

Ten mountain gorillas have been killed and two have gone missing in Virunga national park since January. These slaughters, some blamed on Nkunda's men, have sparked outrage among conservationists....

Only about 700 critically endangered mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them in the mountain forests of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern DRC.

DRC is also home to chimpanzees, forest elephant, rhinos and bonobos -- pygmy chimps whose population has been decimated over the past 15 years.

Photo by Futureatlas

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