Watch: The last DRC mountain gorillas again face an uncertain fate
Yes, it’s happening again.
A few weeks ago, the delicate state of peace in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was again shattered by renewed clashes between the Congolese army and rebel militias operating near and inside Virunga National Park.
Established in 1925, the park is the oldest in Africa and a bastion for the endangered mountain gorilla. This is the site where conservation icons like George Schaller and Dian Fossey conducted the first field studies on the Gorilla beringei beringei.
Out of an estimated 790 mountain gorillas left in the world, approximately 200 of them live within the park’s territory. Remarkably, and in spite of a 12-year civil war in the region, the park’s gorilla population has continued its upward trend; but for how long?
Dian Fossey was forced to flee Congo and the gorillas she was studying back in 1967 due to civil unrest in the country. All these years later, thousands of Congolese refugees follow her footsteps in yet another wave of violence unleashed a few weeks ago.
As refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda struggle to cope with the influx of people, back in Virunga things are quickly getting out of hand. The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) are evacuating their rangers from the combat zone.
This is bad news for the gorillas and other animals that receive protection from ICCN.
Back in July of last year, my International Fund for Animal Welfare colleague Céline Sissler-Bienvenu and I traveled to Africa and partnered with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to move 6 rescued Grauer gorilla orphans from Rwanda to a rehabilitation center in the DRC.
After we successfully completed the operation, we joined rangers from the ICCN and visited/filmed wild mountain gorillas at the famous park. Take just a few minutes and visit Virunga’s treasure by playing the video below:
Trekking up the volcano’s slopes to get a unique 1-hr glimpse of wild mountain gorillas is an experience I will never forget. I think about the dominant silver-back Kabirizi and his family group in these uncertain times and hope they remain safe.
Losing just a single family group would have devastating consequences for mountain gorilla conservation.
If you’re as concerned as I am, go directly to the Fossey Fund website for the latest security reports and help all of us protect animals in need.