After raiding Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park and killing a wildlife officer, the Mayi-Mayi militia are threatening to slaughter rare mountain gorillas, officials said. The attackers looted the three sites—research stations and tourism camps—seizing arms and communications equipment. Thirteen park workers were also briefly held hostage. According to WildlifeDirect, an organization involved in conservation at Virunga, the area attacked is only two hours walk from a unique and isolated population of gorillas. The park is home to half of the 700 mountain gorillas that remain in the world. “This was an unprovoked attack on our Rangers and other wildlife officers who protect Virunga’s wildlife,” Virunga’s park director Norbert Mushenzi said in a statement distributed by WildlifeDirect. “And the Mayi-Mayi said that if we retaliate, they will kill all the gorillas in this area.” (Reuters, May 23)
The Mayi-Mayi opposed Rwanda’s military presence in eastern Congo, and were thought to be backed by the DRC government. (WW4R, August 2005) The Virunga park straddles the Congo-Rwanda border.
See our last post on the wars for Central Africa.