Mountain gorillas in the Congo are having a rough time of it again as reports indicate that a rebel Congolese general led his soldiers into the protected Virunga National Park, home to 73 mountain gorillas who live on the Congolese side. This is very bad news for the survival of the critically endangered gorillas. Park guards have been run out of the area, leaving no one to enforce the codes of the park. Already this year 10 mountain gorillas have been killed and more will likely follow given the intrusion into the park.
Sometimes I wonder if it's a hopeless situation for mountain gorilla survival. They have everything going against them in terms of the factors that matter in conservation biology. They are few in number, which means they are at an increased risk of birth defects and aberrant genetic mutations that arise from inbreeding. They also live in populations that are geographically isolated from other populations which means they can't easily breed outside their group. They are huge. They need more area to acquire the food they need, plus they are easy targets for hunting.
The only thing they have going for them is celebrity status in the conservation world, but there is only so much that can be done to keep armed rebel forces out of their habitat. Guards carry weapons, but there are too few of them to do anything in these crisis situations. I don't know what the answer is, after all, TIA. My family makes regular contributions to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, an organization that from the inception of the Virunga National Park, has outfitted armed guards to safeguard the gorillas. Even if gorillas don't make it in the long run, at least the guards and their families have employment and are taken care of.
Bonobos live in the Congo too, but rebel forces don't seem to be causing problems in their limited habitat, otherwise we'd be hearing about it too, right? Wrong. Bonobos don't have the cache that gorillas have. Who knows what's happening in bonobo habitat, but at least in the capital of Kinshasa, some semi-wild, semi-captive bonobos living at a research center have it pretty good. A blog of note this week, Bonobo Handshake, is devoted to reporting what happens at the research center. The researcher, Vanessa Woods, posts fantastic videos of her interactions with the bonobos. I have added the blog to my links.