Emergency Gorilla-Protection Force Deployed in Congo

Stefan Lovgren
for National Geographic News
August 21, 2007

A temporary, 30-ranger gorilla-protection force has been deployed in the troubled African park where at least five mountain gorillas were killed, execution style, in July.

The emergency measure is intended to end the attacks on endangered gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park.

A permanent gorilla-protection unit, totaling some 50 rangers, is also being established for the park.

That force is expected to be in place later this year, following several months of ranger training.

"We are currently in a situation of high risk and enormous threat since the killing of the gorillas last month," said Norbert Mushenzi, the park official now in charge of the southern sector of Virunga, where the attacks took place.

"We have now lost nine gorillas since the beginning of the year," he said. "We have not been faced with such a crisis in many years."

There was good news today, however, as the Virunga rangers announced that Bilali, the only female from the Munyaga family of gorillas, has given birth.

Gorillas live in family "troops" of up to 30 animals, which are led by a dominant male, called a silverback.

Births are rare among the gorillas, which only produce three to four babies in their lifetime.

Family Torn Apart

More than half of the world's 700 endangered mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park, which straddles the border of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. (See Congo map.)

Last month four mountain gorillas from the Rugendo family were found shot dead in the park, execution style.

Continued on Next Page >>




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