Congo: guerillas threaten gorillas

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.

  1. Congo: oil (and guerillas) threaten gorillas

    DR Congo's government has opened Virunga National Park, home of the famous mountain gorillas, to the oil industry. UK-based Soco International was in 2010 granted a exploration area, some half of which, called Block V, is located within the park borders. A new film on the question, entitled Virunga, has just been released. Simultaenously, one of those featured in the film, Emmanuel de Merode, the chief warden of Virunga, was shot in ambush within the park by unknown gunmen. He survived, and remains hospitalized, in "in serious but stable condition." (AlterNet, May 1; AP, April 18)