Endangered Gorillas Become Dinner for Rebels in the Congo


Photo via Current

The already endangered Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the Congo are facing a brand new threat—rebel war. Due to deforestation, an illegal charcoal trade, and rising pollution, there were only 118 gorillas monitored before fighting intensified in the region. And now the Kahuzi-Biega national park that safeguards the gorillas may have to be closed down because of escalating violence, leaving the gorillas unmonitored, unprotected, and about to become dinner.The Eastern Lowland Gorilla is the largest living primate, and it could fall victim to the massive unrest in its native Congo--in the worst possible way.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been combating rebel troops since the government of Mobutu Sese Seko dissolved in the '90s, and now the fighting has reached the precious national park—Kahuzi is one of 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and could very well succumb entirely to environmental degradation and, yes, species loss.
Bloomberg contacted an Australian visitor who had to cut his trip to the region short due to the fighting:

Marc Blackstone . . . said his party of visitors was forced to cut short a trip to see the gorillas in Kahuzi- Biega last month when shots rang out nearby as gunmen attacked a civilian truck, killing 10.

And visitors aren't the only ones concerned with the violence, and the plight of the vanishing gorilla population.
The deputy head of the park, Dieudonne Boji, said Congolese troops deploying in the jungle across the volcanic mountains of South Kivu province are increasing pollution and deforestation in the 600,000-hectare (1.5-million acre) reserve where 118 gorillas are being monitored. The authorities may have to close the park if the security situation worsens, he said.


This gorilla was known as Karen by park authorities who kept watch over her before the violence. Photo via National Geographic

DRC soldiers have already erected a blockade at the entrance to the park, making it next to impossible for park authorities to carry out their work. And lack of oversight and habitat loss aren't the only problems the gorillas face: the Congolese rebels have already eaten two of the beloved beasts. Though it may seem cannibalistic, the desperate rebels are trapped and have few options for obtaining food. It goes to show that if the fighting carries on too long, human lives won't be the only casualties--an entire species could be extinguished as well.

More on the Endangered Gorillas
Keeping Gorillas In Our Midst
Vice TV Tracks Down 2 of the Few Remaining "Gorillas in the Midst"

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Endangered Species

Best of TreeHugger