More mountain gorillas killed in Virunga
We were shocked to hear last week that more mountain gorillas have been shot dead in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Three females and a male silverback were found dead by rangers in the park last week. The animals belonged to a group of 12 gorillas, known to researchers as the Rugendo family, which was often visited by tourists. One of the females, named Safari, was heavily pregnant with her first infact, and another had given birth to a female just five months ago. The infant’s brother rescued her, taking her into the forest, but there was concern that she might not survive as she was still dependent on her mother’s milk. Fortunately the pair were later tracked down by park guards and the infant taken to the nearby city of Goma where she will be cared for at the Mountains Gorilla Veterinary Project.
The murders have devestated park staff. “We are deeply shocked,” wrote Paulin Ngobobo, a Virunga ranger, on his Gorilla Protection blog for Wildlife Direct. “There are no words for what we are feeling.”
The killings follow a similar shooting of two silverback gorillas from the same family group in January this year. Emmanuel De Merode, director of WildlifeDirect, said that illegal charcoal harvesters, who supply the nearby city of Goma, were thought to be behind the murders.
There has been conflict between park rangers and various militia groups within the park for nearly a decade, with some 150 park rangers having been killed on active duty. The killings are thought to have been carried out by a group that was trying to scare wardens out of the park.
Virguna National Park, which is situated near the boarder with Rwanda supports approximately 360 of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas. The remaining mountain gorillas are found in the surrounding Virunga volcanoes region and neighbouring Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. These killings are a great blow to conservation efforts for this Critically Endangered species, ranked 165 on the EDGE list.
Park staff plan to increase protection for the gorillas by intensifying surveillance, both within the park and along the boundary. More funding is urgently needed to support extra ranger patrols over the next 3 months. WildlifeDirect have launched a campaign to help protect the remaining gorillas. For more information or to make a donation please visit the WildlifeDirect website.