Congo's Gorillas Victims in War Over Charcoal
Corruption, poverty, unrest combine for conservationists' nightmare
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2008 2:09 PM CDT
A female mountain gorilla holds her one-day old son in Virunga National Park in eastern Congo.   (AP Photo/WildlifeDirect, HO)
camera-icon View 7 more images

(Newser) – Who murdered seven mountain gorillas in the Congo last year? Perhaps, National Geographic finds, the question should be how any of the magnificent apes stay alive at all. A three-way military standoff—a holdover from neighboring Rwanda’s haunted past—enveloping Virunga National Park has left gorillas, people, and the park itself in grave danger.

What one anthropologist called “arguably the greatest national park on the planet,” Virunga is the front line in a battle between tribal militias. The Congolese army seems to switch sides on a whim, and the resulting lawlessness has led to illegal charcoal production that could devastate the park’s old-growth forest, a steep human cost, and an uncertain future for one of the last refuges of the mountain gorilla.