Congo Rebels Agree to End Gorilla Slaughter

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The rebel faction is led by Laurent Nkunda, a renegade Congolese general who has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Congolese government.

The DRC recently completed its first democratic elections in more than 40 years, raising hopes of lasting peace in a country ravaged by civil war since 1996. Around a hundred Virunga park wardens have been killed in that time.

Last year, another Congo rebel militia, the Mai Mai, was responsible for butchering hundreds of hippos in Virunga National Park.

(Read "Hippos Butchered by the Hundreds in Congo Wildlife Park" [October 24, 2006].)

Park Rangers Captured

Park rangers were captured but apparently not injured during the latest rebel incursion, senior warden Ngobobo said.

"When the rebels moved in to occupy the gorilla sector they chased everyone away," he said. "However, they captured the chief ranger responsible for Bikenge patrol post, along with another ranger. They were interrogated for 24 hours and then released.

"None of the rangers have been hurt, but all food, equipment, and personal items have been looted from the ranger's patrol posts," he added.

Ian Redmond, chief consultant for the United Nations-led Great Apes Survival Project, said last week there are now good prospects of a peace deal between Nkunda's faction and the government.

This month a plan began to integrate Nkunda's men into the DRC army, a process that's expected to be completed in coming weeks, WildlifeDirect says.

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