An eight-day conference hoping to bring peace to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) troubled Kivu region has opened in the North Kivu capital of Goma. The talks, held at the Université Libre des Grands Lacs, are being attended by representatives from the government, different ethnic groups, civil society and even armed groups. Many people are concerned however, that the failure of Congolese President Joseph Kabila and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda to attend the peace talks has raised doubts about a successful outcome.
To date over 800,000 civilians have been displaced due to clashes between Nkunda’s forces and government troops in North Kivu in latest months, and an additional 300,000 Congolese refugees have been forced to move into the neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
In addition to the enormous toll this fighting has had on local people, the pressure on wildlife and especially endangered species and those rangers protecting them has been immense.
Rangers from the Virunga National Park are pinning their hopes on the peace talks as failure to restore peace in the area would have dire consequences for the endangered gorilla populations that could be caught up in the cross fire between the two factions.
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In other news, two infant lowland gorillas have been seized from poachers during a routine MONUC (UN Peace Keeping) patrol near Kanyabayonga outside the Virunga National Park.
Initially both seem to be in fairly good condition, however they are both very young and severely traumatised by their recent ordeal and are currently showing signs of distress. The infant gorillas are being cared for by a vet from the MGVP and a comfortable shelter is being built in Mutsora until a decision is made on how to best secure a future for these two infants.
It is suspected that the poachers were intercepted on the way to a market where the infants would have become casualties to the bush meat trade. No arrests were made after the gorillas were seized however rangers are retracing steps and trying to find out the identities of those responsible for the capture of the infant gorillas.
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