Congo rebels seize gorilla park HQ

Posted: 29 October 2008

Rebels in DR Congo loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda seized the Headquarters of Virunga National Park and its Gorilla Sector on 26 October after intense fighting with the Congolese army. Over 50 Rangers were forced to flee into the forests and abandon the park station, in fear of their lives. The road south of Rumangabo towards Goma, 45 km away, has also been blocked by the rebels.

Virunga map
Virunga map
Map showing the Virunga National Park. The Mikeno (Gorilla) Sector also extends into Uganda and Rwanda.
"The seizure of our Park Headquarters at Rumangabo by rebels is unprecedented, even in all the years of conflict in the region. We have nowinstructed all Rangers to withdraw and make their way on foot through the forest to Kibumba, 20 km south of Rumangabo, where we are sendingtrucks to bring them to safety in Goma. The conflict on the ground is chaotic and dangerous and we cannot allow our Rangers to become targets," said Virunga Park Director Emmanuel de Merode.

Mountain Gorilla. Photo: Ian Redmond/UNESCO
Mountain Gorilla. Photo: Ian Redmond/UNESCO
Mountain Gorilla© Ian Redmond/UNESCO
Fighting between rebels loyal to Nkunda, and the army has been intermittent in this area for over a year, but the conflict intensified late August, bringing renewed instability and chaos to the area, including the Gorilla Sector of Virunga National Park that is home to 200 of the last remaining 700 mountain gorillas in the world.

The Gorilla Sector was also attacked repeatedly in 2007 during which 10 mountain gorillas were killed. It was attacked in January 2007, when two Silverbacks were killed. An adult female was executed in June 2007 and in July 2007, 5 were massacred causing an international outcry.

More information, and how to donate to support the rangers who have been forced to flee the park, at Gorilla.cd, the official website of the Virunga National Park.