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Gorilla sub-species faces extinction following fatal attack on ranger patrol posts
31 May 2007

In the early hours of Sunday 20 May 2007, rebel soldiers made a deadly attack on conservationists at Mount Tshiaberimu, a remote part of the Virunga National Park, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and home to a tiny population or endangered gorillas. Two patrol posts of ICCN, the DRC Parks Authority, were raked with gunfire leaving one man dead and four wounded. The Gorilla Organization, which has been supporting community-based conservation in this location for more than ten years, has launched an emergency appeal for £50,000 to give immediate aid to those affected.

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The patrol posts at Mount Tshiaberimu protect a tiny population of just 21 gorillas. These gorillas are currently classified as Eastern lowland Gorillas Gorilla beringei graueri but some believe that they are a unique sub-species and exist nowhere else in the world. The Gorilla Organization helped saved this population from extinction when it initiated a conservation programme in the surrounding communities 10 years ago and has seen the population grow from just 16 individuals to a more comforting 21 in that time. The attackers, who are alleged to be involved in the slaughter of thousands of hippos for illegal bushmeat, have threatened to kill the gorillas if the rangers retaliate and once again this gorilla population’s future is threatened.

Hostages who were taken by the rebel soldiers were later released unharmed and the four wounded are reported to be out of danger. But, tragedy struck again when the wife of one of the Gorilla Organization’s rangers, died during premature labour brought on by the stress. Condolences have been received from all over the world Norbert Mushenzi, Director of Conservation for the Virunga National Park, has seen more than 100 rangers killed in the line of duty during a decade of civil wars and humanitarian crises in DRC.

Greg Cummings, executive director of the Gorilla Organization expressed his condolences at the loss of life and concern over the escalation of violence, “We support the idea of a mediation forum to focus on conflict resolution. If we are to continue to save this very special gorilla population from extinction we need to act now.”

Ian Redmond OBE, chief consultant for GRASP, the UN Great Apes Survival Project, and a GO Trustee, commented, “The brave rangers and their families who make sacrifices daily to protect the world’s endangered gorillas, deserve a better deal.”

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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