Report just in from the African Wildlife Foundation:
January 19, 2007 — By African Wildlife FoundationKIGALI, Rwanda — African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has learned from the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) that insurgent forces led by the dissident General Laurent Nkunda have invaded Virunga National Park's south sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and killed at least one silverback mountain gorilla.
This area serves as precious habitat for six groups of endangered mountain gorillas habituated for tourism and five lone silverbacks that are also monitored daily. A total of 82 individuals reside in this sector.
Hostilities forced ICCN's park staff and their families to flee the park's Jomba, Bikenge and Bukima patrol posts on December 20, 2006. This left the park and its mountain gorilla population extremely vulnerable.On January 11, 2007 rebel insurgents succeeded in shooting and killing a silverback. The silverback, named Karema, was formally a member of the Lulengo Group, but had been solitary for the last few years. Unfortunately, due to continuing insecurity, ICCN rangers were only able to access the park and verify the killing on Monday January 15. These rangers acted at tremendous risk to their own lives.
A second silverback mountain gorilla was killed, though authorities have yet to identify the individual.
General Nkunda was a commander in the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), a main rebel group which controlled most of eastern Congo during the country's five-year civil war. Nkunda dissidents continue to conflict with both government forces and local people in addition to the national park. As recently as November, Nkunda's forces attacked DRC troops in eastern posts; this fresh fighting forced more than 10,000 Congolese people to flee into Uganda.
International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP - a coalition of AWF, Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature) officers on the ground continue to work tirelessly with park authorities to collect information about this loss and other potential damage. However, the situation in the area remains extremely tense and unstable. Contact Info:
Amy Wiedemann African Wildlife FoundationTel : 202-939-3333E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : African Wildlife Foundation