WASHINGTON – Two solitary silverback gorillas have been killed by rebels allied to a local warlord in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the last ten days. This is the latest in a series of poaching incidents, which also include hippos and buffaloes, over the last few weeks during violent clashes between the DRC army (FARDC) and rebels in the area.
WWF is calling upon the DRC government, MONUC – the United Nations mission in DRC – and the troops loyal to local warlord, Laurent Kunda to take measures to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of the mountain gorilla and its habitat. WWF is working with the DRC government, the U.N. and park authorities to resolve the situation but instability in the region is hampering efforts.
Just 700 mountain gorillas survive in the wild, more than 150 of them in the Virunga National Park, Africa's oldest and most biologically diverse national park. A tiny population has survived in the park through years of bloody conflict in the surrounding area.
"With so few mountain gorillas left in the world, every individual counts," said Richard Carroll, director of WWF's Congo Basin Program. "The two recently killed silverbacks are from groups habituated for tourism and are easy targets. Because one of them has likely been killed for its meat, there is reason to believe that other gorillas may be in danger too."
The Mikeno section of the park and its gorillas are facing a number of potentially catastrophic threats that have recently emerged including resumed cattle ranching and charcoal burning which could permanently destroy parts of the gorilla's habitat.
Mountain gorillas are the premier tourist attraction in the DRC and represent an important income for the local economy, estimated at $3 million annually in periods of peace.