More than half of the world’s 700 remaining mountain gorillas live on the edge of a war zone in Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Conflict has ripped through eastern Congo, uprooting thousands of civilians. But violence has also impacted the country’s mountain gorilla population that lives on land that has absorbed much of the fighting.
This week, rangers returned to the park’s main gorilla sector for the first time in over a year. The rangers are now canvassing the forest to determine how many of the gorillas have survived.
Last year in the park, at least 10 gorillas were killed — several shot in the head. Soldiers also captured baby chimpanzees and monkeys and took them as pets.
Rangers at Virunga National Park’s blog write from key patrol posts about their return to the gorillas.
Nov. 25: Up among the mountain gorillas
Today was an extraordinary day. We launched the gorilla survey to get an accurate assessment of the status and health of Virunga’s mountain gorillas after 15 months of conflict.
With Diddy, Innocent, Pierre, Altor from IGCP, and others, we joined the rangers and trackers who remained behind in the Gorilla Sector and moved into the forest. Within an hour, we had found the nests of the Humba group, and after tracking them for ten minutes we began to hear those wonderful familiar grunts.
We almost fell on Humba himself, sitting under a tree, looking at us wondering what all the fuss was about. Humba is the most laid back of all the silverbacks I know, and his wonderful temperament affects the whole group who were all very relaxed. Diddy and Innocent began their work with the trackers and rangers to try to identify all the members of the group. I won’t pre-empt the results which will be published in about one month, except to say that we have nothing to worry about with the Humba group. They’re in good shape.
I have to go down to Rumangabo tomorrow, as there is still an awful lot to do, but the team is remaining up here to continue the survey.
Nov. 22: [Park Ranger] Innocent Returns to Bukima
This afternoon I accompanied Innocent as he and other Rangers tested the road up to the Bukima Patrol Post. The road hadn’t been used in more than a year so it was very difficult, but in the end we made it to the top.
As you can see from the video I filmed, the Rangers were extremely glad to be back after such a long absence. We are now back in Rumangabo, but we left some trackers behind. The plan is to go back up tomorrow morning with all our equipment and look for the Humba gorilla group in the afternoon. We are all very excited to see how they are doing!
To read more, see the Virunga National Park blog.
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Photos courtesy of the Virunga National Park blog.