National army and rebel fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is putting the severely endangered mountain gorillas in danger and closer to the brink of extinction.
According to Virunga National Park officials, only two of the park’s original five gorilla patrol posts remain over as fighting in the area has intensified and rebels have continued to move into the area.
Africa’s oldest national park Virunga houses nearly 25″ of the worldwide population of mountain gorillas.
In a statement regarding the severity of the situation Virunga National Park chief warden Emmanuel de Merode revealed:
“We are deeply concerned with the safety of the mountain gorillas who are exposed to the dangers of artillery fire, but we must also take care of our staff who have to be evacuated from the combat zone. As soon as there is a lull in the fighting, we will return to check on the gorillas.”
Listed as “critically endangered” there are believed to be less than 800 mountain Gorilla’s left in the world, mostly centered in the war-torn areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Virunga National Park houses upwards of 200 gorilla’s.
The countries national army has been locked in a decade long conflict with armed militias, a conflict that has left millions of people dead while hunger and disease has spread throughout the Congo.
Mountain Gorillas are not typically hunted for their meat however they have been known to become trapped and killed in traps or snares poachers setup for other animals. In some cases body parts from the animals are sold to collectors.