Concern remains for the mountain gorillas and people of Virunga National Park, DRC

The status of Virunga National Park’s mountain gorillas remains unknown as rebels continue to occupy the park’s gorilla sector.

It has been since May that M23 rebels – also referred to as the Congolese Revolutionary Army – have occupied the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park, the park’s gorilla sector. The gorilla sector is home to a significant portion of the estimated 480 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif including six groups habituated to the presence of humans for tourism and many more unhabituated groups and solitary males.

Virunga National Park rangers have attempted several times to check in on the habituated mountain gorilla groups, with the last contact with the gorillas in early August, but routine monitoring of the mountain gorillas has had to be suspended. The routine monitoring of the mountain gorillas is a vital part of mountain gorilla conservation, allowing for the direct protection of the gorillas and intervention in the case of life-threatening injury or illness.

There was renewed fighting yesterday between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army, at the border of the park’s gorilla sector, raising new concern for the park’s critically endangered mountain gorillas as well as park rangers, their families, and the communities caught in the conflict.

Our coalition partners Fauna & Flora International and WWF have mobilized emergency funds to be used by Virunga National Park during this period as their income stream from tourism, which was growing until this recent conflict, has been cut off. Many thanks to those who have contributed already. More help is needed, however. Please consider a donation direct to the park at http://www.virungacrisis.org/.

Update from Virunga National Park on November 18: http://gorillacd.org/2012/11/18/violent-rebel-and-army-fighting-begins-again/

Banner photo: Stock photo of juveniles in the Kabirizi group of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park by Maryke Gray/IGCP.

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