Congo Gorillas Caught in Renewed Rebel Violence

In June, I wrote THIS blog post about a National Geographic film documenting the dangerous lives of mountain gorillas in Congo's Virunga National Park.

After four gorillas were killed by illegal charcoal traders to send a message to local wildlife officials, National Geographic sent a film team to document the unfolding situation.

What they found was a community of 200 extremely endangered mountain gorillas whose home had become ground zero for a war between rebels, charcoal traders and the rangers charged with protecting these gorillas.

Unfortunately, the political environment in Virunga has not changed and violence is still threatening the lives of mountain gorillas caught in the crosshairs of human conflict.

Just this past Monday (Oct. 26, 2008) rebels sized and vandalized the headquarters of the Virunga National Park rangers. Over 50 park rangers fled their headquarters because of rebel violence, leaving the gorillas without protection.

Increasing violence by these same rebels, loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda, has now brought 17,000 United Nations forces to the area to protect villagers. A rebels encampment is located in the center of the Mikeno section of Virunga that is home to the gorilla community. The 17,000 UN soldiers, with their tanks and helicopters, are awaiting orders to invade the rebel encampment. This type of activity would certainly disrupt the lives of the gorillas and would severely threaten their survival.

Unfortunately, taking the rebels out may be the only path to protecting what's left of the mountain gorillas. Reports of rebels killing and eating gorillas, as well as charcoal trader symbolic murders, paint a very threatening environment.

The United Nations successfully mediated a meeting between rebels and wildlife groups to create a pledge to stop the gorilla killings. That pledge, however, was short-lived and gorilla killings continued at the end of 2007 through today.

If you'd like to do something to help the situation in Congo, you can visit Gorilla.Wildlifedirect.Org.

If you would like to read more about the situation in Virunga, you can read the daily blog of the park's director HERE.

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