In Democratic Republic of Congo, four endangered mountain gorillas were found brutally murdered this week in Virunga National Park. The four silverback gorillas are known to researchers as the Rugendo family. These four animals belonged to a pack of twelve gorillas which were often visited by tourists.
Park staff and WildlifeDirect officials positioned in Virunga’s Bukima camp reported hearing gunshots at 8 p.m. on Saturday coming from within the dark forest.
Since January, seven large endangered apes have been shot dead. According to conservationists, poachers were not responsible for these vicious killings because they would have taken the bodies for food or sale.
Conversely, conservationists believe that the “senseless and tragic” killings were an act of sabotage committed by a group trying to convey the political message to keep rangers out of Virunga National Park. Presently, the protected park is under pressure from “outside exploitation,” including the lucrative charcoal trade. Mark Rose, chief executive of Fauna and Flora International, stated, “Whatever the motive underlying this tragedy, the gorillas are helpless pawns in a feud between individuals.”
Deo Kujirakwinja of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Congo programme, stated “This area must be immediately secured or we stand to lose an entire population of these animals.” According to a 2004 census, 380 gorillas, more than half of the world’s population, reside in the national park and nearby Virunga volcanoes region.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Concern Over Gorilla ‘Executions’ – 26 July 2007
BBC – DR Congo Rebel Threat to Gorillas – 21 May 2007
AllAfrica – Rwanda: Gorillas Mass Execution Reported in DR Congo – 24 July 2007