Congo guerillas threaten to kill rare gorillas
Congo guerillas threaten to kill rare gorillas
May 21, 2007
Fresh off killing a park ranger, a group of Congo guerillas said they will slaughter highly endangered mountain gorillas in Congo’s Virunga National Park if their demands for immunity aren’t met, says WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation organization active in the region.
Reuters reports that Sunday three wildlife workers were injured and one was killed in attacks by Mai Mai rebels who seized communications equipment and arms from park facilities. Park guards in the region—Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda—are generally armed to protect themselves and tourists from militias.
The Mai Mai, who have a record of slaughtering wildlife and murdering civilians, said they would kill all the gorillas in the area if wildlife officials retaliate for the attack. In making the threats, the group appears to be reneging on agreement they made earlier this year in which they said they would not harm the park’s gorillas.
Juvenile gorilla in Bwindi (top) and a wildlife guide searching for gorillas in Bwindi (bottom). Photos by Rhett A. Butler
WildlifeDirect says the violence is nothing new: since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Congo nearly a decade ago, some 150 park rangers have been killed on active duty.
Violence aside, gorillas are Virunga’s most famous residents. The park, which sits near the border with Rwanda, supports 380 of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas. Another 340 mountain gorillas are found in neighboring Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
While there have long been conflicts between local people and conservationists, some scientists point to Rwanda and Uganda as examples of conservation efforts that bring benefits to the local economy. At Bwindi well-trained guides lead small and carefully supervised groups of tourists who pay more than $300 each for a permit to see the gorillas. The efforts have provided some compensation for communities around the park who have had to give up their right to cut timber and harvest game from the protected forest.
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