Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mountain Gorillas Shot to Death

Conflict in the Congo has once again resulted in dead mountain gorillas.

This time another silverback and three females were killed.

Officials believe the gorillas were not poached, but instead got caught up in the crossfire of people illegally using the area for resource mining.

A similar incident occurred last month.

The uptick in gorilla deaths comes on the heals of renewed conflict over resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The last time gorillas were killed with this frequency and number occurred during the height of the region's civil war in the 1990s.

Although peace has come to neighboring Rwanda, where gorilla tourism contributes the third most revenue for the national economy, the DRC's efforts to establish gorilla tourism have been floundering because of political instability. The dead gorillas were part of a family that had been habituated to tourist groups.

An infant was orphaned and is now being cared for by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International shelter. Babies are often killed along with their mothers, however this one was rescued by his older brother, the group's blackback. Blackbacks are adult male gorillas who serve the role of backup protectors of the group. The silverback, the dominant male, monitors the group and its surroundings and alerts its members to danger. When the silverback determines that the group must move away from danger, it is the blackback who remains behind to see to it that all of the other gorillas move along and no one gets left behind.

Mountain gorillas are among the most endangered animals in the world. Only about 350 remain alive. They are a complex, highly intelligent and sensitive species that is besieged by threats on all sides and confined to a dwindling habitat that is in constant danger of being further eroded.

Mountain gorillas are considered a "flagship" species, one that attracts public support in its own right, but whose protection results in the conservation of habitat upon which many other species depend for survival.

Tax deductible donations can be made to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the International Gorilla Conservation Program. The charitable donations are used to hire armed guards to patrol the habitat of mountain gorillas. Such guards are the only reliable safeguard to the preservation of this species and its habitat.

The DFGFI press release can be read here. This is the BBC coverage.

1 comment:

B said...

A very tragic day for the forest. There is a related Newsweek article explaining the increase in logging/mining roads and their impact on increasing the ability of people to hunt large animals. Although, these gorillas were left for dead the article also discusses the large number of animals killed for bushmeat to be shipped abroad. When will people learn?