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Four Mountain gorillas shot dead in DRC massacre
26 July 2007

Local communities devastated by conservation setback

In the early hours of 24 July 2007, the Gorilla Organization was called to investigate the horrific shooting of four endangered Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). Rangers heard rounds of gun-fire at around 19:30 on Sunday 22 July, and the following morning found the bodies of three female Mountain gorillas from the Rugendo family group. The murdered gorillas were identified as Safari and Neza, who both had young babies, and Mburanumwe, who was pregnant at the time of her death. The following day rangers found a fourth fatality – this time it was the silverback Senkwekwe, the group’s magnificent alpha male.

This gruesome slaughter took place in the southern sector of the Virunga National Park, near the Bukima patrol post. It is the third tragic attack in this area since the beginning of the year - a trend that has left seven gorillas dead in as many months. It is currently not known why the gorillas were killed or who shot them, but the Gorilla Organization is investigating this appalling loss and taking steps to ensure that this disturbing trend does not continue.

Greg Cummings the Gorilla Organization’s executive director says: “this is a tragic loss of some of the world’s most magnificent and endangered animals. It is deeply concerning that these brutal killings are taking place despite many years of successful collaboration in the area”.

Tuver Wundi, the Gorilla Organization’s communication manager in DR Congo reports: “the local communities near Bukima are devastated by the recent killings, they have worked hard during the last 10 years to protect the gorillas and their habitat and welcome the ecological and economic benefits that gorilla conservation has brought to their communities”.

The Rugendo family group is one of the few habituated gorilla groups in the Virunga National Park that is frequently visited by tourists. Now that peace has returned to the area tourism finally has the chance to flourish, but these recent attacks threaten to prevent this from happening and send the region into economic and ecological despair.

Since the Attack

Reports from the Gorilla Organization’s staff in DR Congo have confirmed that since the gruesome attack a young male black back gorilla has taken over Senkwekwe’s role as leader of the Rugendo group. This risky move puts the young male in a vulnerable position and exposes the remaining shell shocked members of the group to the threat of rival silverbacks. There is however some good news - Safari’s infant, known as Ndeze, was rescued by rangers and taken to Goma where he is being cared for by vets. Ndeze’s older brother had been looking after his young sibling since their mother was shot but had no way to feed the suckling infant - if the rangers had not intervened Ndeze would have surely died. Sadly Neza’s infant is still missing and the worst is feared.
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