TOURISM - The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) is concerned about the increasing insecurity mountain gorillas face especially on the Congolese side of Virunga Park.
The tourism office says that the current fighting between government forces and rebel General Laurent Nkunda’s troops in eastern DRC is a major threat to safety of mountain gorillas.
“The war does not affect people alone, but also the safety of gorillas in the park,” ORTPN’s Director of Wildlife, Fidel Ruzigandekwe, said.
He said that the war is affecting conservation efforts.
Samantha Newport, the spokesperson of WildlifeDirect group which operates from Goma, eastern DRC, said that exchange of fire between Nkunda’s troops and Congolese government forces is affecting the rare primates.
Rangers have also reportedly fled their Rumagambo park headquarters a few kilometres from the gorilla sector, with all valuable tracking equipment.
“It is very serious and the situation for gorillas is now worse than it was when fighting started five weeks ago,” Newport was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
“All Congolese mountain gorillas are now unprotected, unmonitored and untracked and therefore there is nothing we can do at the moment,” she added.
Foreign militias as well as Congolese soldiers, poachers and illegal miners on regular basis are now crossing into the park to conduct illicit activities.
Since last January, ten mountain gorillas have been killed and two have gone missing in Virunga National Park. The killings have drawn outrage from conservationists.
The endangered rare mountain gorillas in Virunga national park are a major tourist attraction, but poaching and other illegal activities over there have become a threat to them.
Only about 700 critically endangered mountain gorillas remain in the wild habitat, bordering between Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern DRC.