Congo fighting threatens mountain gorillas
Virunga, DR Congo ”“ Conservation organizations, including WWF, are closely watching to see if Congo’s Virunga National Park rare mountain gorillas are safe, following a period of fierce clashes between Congolese military and rebels in the area.
Recent reports from ICCN, The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, say that heavy shelling has been taking place near the town of Bikenge in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo close to the borders of Uganda and Rwanda — a site at the edge of gorilla habitat. It’s unclear who is responsible for the attacks.
Earlier this week, the gorilla population had been left completely unprotected as rangers were forced to evacuate their guard posts.
“The UN announces a truce between warring factions one day and the next we hear it’s been broken," said WWF’s Marc Languy who is working in the national park.
"All we want is return of peace for the security of its people and wildlife.”
There are an estimated 700 wild mountain gorillas remaining worldwide, with more than half of them living in Virunga. Nine gorillas living in the troubled park have been killed this year.
Due to the fighting, the United Nations is anticipating some displacement of local people and may open up sites next to the southern tip of Virunga National Park between Goma and Sake.
ICCN and WWF are working with the UN, providing maps of the parks boundaries to help ensure that the displaced people do not encroach into the park as was the case in 1994.
For further information:
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Media Relations Officer
Tel: +41 22 364 95 54