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Congo Crisis Update
18 November 2008

The Gorilla Organization has launched an appeal in response to the escalating crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.



An estimated 250,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have lost their homes and are living in desperate conditions following the latest outbreak of fighting around the Virunga National Park. Clashes between rebel soldiers and the national army, fuelled by ethnic differences and the country’s vast mineral wealth, have lead to a major humanitarian and environmental disaster, and as food and water supplies run out and disease spreads, the gravity of the situation is escalating.

This recent outbreak began when rebels took control of the Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo. The gorilla rangers were forced to flee into the forest and have since found shelter in a disease-ridden refugee camp outside the city of Goma. The fighting has continued to spread and all of the Gorilla Organization’s projects around the Virunga National Park are now in rebel-controlled areas. A number of Gorilla Organization staff and partners have been forced to flee with some travelling over to neighbouring Rwanda, while others are receiving emergency food packages whenever possible.

The mountain gorillas remain unprotected and while it is believed that they are not the target of conflict, the area is flooded with armed rebels and the gorillas are extremely vulnerable.

Additional concerns are now growing at Mount Tshiaberimu, an isolated area of forest in the northern sector of the Virunga National Park, which is home to a tiny population of eastern lowland gorillas. On 16 November fighting broke out around the town of Rwindi, 75 miles north of Goma, on the main road between the city and Mount Tshiaberimu. The Gorilla Organization’s staff in this area have reported that armed soldiers are now circulating not far from Mount Tshiaberimu and rangers, protecting the population of 18 gorillas, are returning to their bases to await further information.

The situation is critical. The rangers, tirelessly working to save the gorillas, are now stranded, living in squalor until the situation improves; the projects, established by the Gorilla Organization to protect the gorilla habitat, are unmanned in rebel held territory; hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by fighting are desperate for food and more dependent on the gorilla forest than ever; and the gorillas are unprotected in the middle of it all.

The Gorilla Organization is appealing for funds to help the people and the gorillas caught up in the conflict

 

  • Please help us to evacuate staff in to neighbouring Rwanda and provide food and shelter until it is safe to return
  • Please help us to support the rangers in refugee camps and help them return to their jobs protecting the gorillas as soon as possible
  • Please help us to resume and strengthen its activities in eastern DR Congo, which support the local people and alleviate pressure on the gorilla habitat

 



 

 

for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org