Four senior Wildlife Officers have been arrested and imprisoned after the state Congolese Wildlife Agency (ICCN) pressed charges for complicity in the destruction of the protected forests of Virunga National Park in the east of DR Congo. The imprisonment of the Rangers comes after a lengthy trial in the North Kivu province courts initiated after the July 2007 massacre of 5 mountain gorillas that was met with outrage around the globe.
Not guilty of gorilla killings - guilty of illegal charcoaling
The Wildlife Officers were charged by the Congolese Wildlife Authority with the "destruction of flora and fauna" under Wildlife Law OL 069-41 of August 1969. The charges included the massacre of the gorillas and involvement in the illegal charcoal trade. The officers were not found guilty of the gorilla massacre due to a lack of evidence, but were fined $5,000 and sentenced to 6 months in prison for involvement in the illegal charcoal trade that allegedly earned them up to $15,000 per month. The officers have been suspended from ICCN pending closure of their file.
"The convictions are a crucial and difficult step in our efforts to rebuild Congo's National Parks," said Virunga National Park Director Emmanuel de Merode. "They also reflect a firm commitment on the part of Congolese institutions to tackle corruption and the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Congo, the root cause of 12 years of civil war."
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Former Virunga Park Officials In Prison
And these particular guys deserve it.
Labels: congo, endangered species, gorillas, virunga, wildlife crime
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Obviously, I am not in a position to make informed comment as to whether I feel that the officers involved were guilty or not of the alleged crimes.
Certainly, having wildlife officers involved in illegal slaughters of gorillas would be a very concerning prospect indeed.
If they were genuinely guilty, let's hope the judgment helps to drive home the message that these types of practices are not satisfactory.
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