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Rangers retreat as fighting intensifies
18 July 2012

 

The Gorilla Organization continues to keep a close watch on events in eastern DC Congo, where government forces, backed by the UN, engage with rebels within the borders of the Virunga National Park.

For several weeks now, rebels from the M-23 group, under the control of the rogue general Bosco Ntaganda have been clashing with government troops, with the fighting having spread into the mountain gorilla sector of the national park

Due to the insecurity, rangers have been unable to carry out their vital work protecting the 220 mountain gorillas living in this part of Africa. At the same time, thousands of people have been escaping the violence for the relative safety of Goma, where the Gorilla Organization's staff report prices for basic food staples have been soaring.

"About 280 rangers were evacuated a few days ago," the Gorilla Organization's executive director Jillian Miller told CNN International. "They've moved to the outskirts of a nearby town and have become refugees themselves, living with their families in plastic tents. There are a few ranger scouts who have stayed in the park and are reporting back, but it's a desperately worrying situation for all."

"If the rangers can't be there to check on the gorillas, who knows what's happening?"

On a more positive note, the leaders of DR Congo and Rwanda have agreed in principle to combine forces to combat insurgency in the region, with the African Union having also indicating it could assist them through the provision of peacekeeping soldiers. Congo's Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame of Rwanda met last Sunday to sign the agreement, which could see the two countries start working together to tackle multiple insurgencies within the mineral-rich Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu.

August 2012 Update: At the start of August, rebels and the Congolese army allowed rangers into the park to conduct a quick patrol. The rangers were able to locate most of the mountain gorilla families and found none of the gorillas to be harmed. Furthermore, the small team of rangers that did manage to enter the park also found that a new baby gorilla had been born to the Munyaga Group, while silverback Bageni has broken off from the Kabirizi group to form his own family. 

 

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