National Geographic is reporting that rebels in the Congo have taken over Virunga National Park, home to most of the remaining mountain gorillas in the world, putting the already endangered species into even bigger jeopardy.
On Sunday, the rebels, led by general Laurent Nkunda, stormed into the park, forcing more than 50 rangers to flee into the jungle, even as the Congolese military moved into engage the guerilla forces. The rangers are said to be dispersed throughout the park, and making their way on foot without food, water, or shelter, through an active battlefield, towards Goma, the regional capital.
Meanwhile, the fighting in the area has made it impossible for the government to monitor the fragile mountain gorilla population, and even other non-profit organizations are pulling out in the wake of the current wave of violence. Roughly 72 gorillas are believed to be in this area, of the 200 known apes that exist in the park area. The rebels have been known to kill the apes in the past, which doesn’t bode well for their safety now.
The official website of the Virunga National Park has a blog where updates are being posted. Right now, the main concern is for the rangers, many of whom are still trying to reach safety, but in the long term, it’s about the population of the gorillas. If the rebels hold the region for very long, it’s feared that it could cause severe damages to the ape population there.
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