Security Update Virunga NP?
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Aug 15, 2012 2:37 AM Last Post By: virungagirl
Jul 19, 2012 11:22 PM
Jul 25, 2012 12:46 AM
24 July 2012 Last updated at 23:55 GMT
DR Congo: Fighters agree to gorilla survey in Virunga
Fighting groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to allow a search for critically endangered mountain gorillas to go ahead.
Six families of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Park have been missing since clashes broke out in the area between government and rebel forces.
Rangers were forced to leave the area in May because of fighting between a rebel group and government forces.
The search had been planned for Tuesday but was delayed after fresh fighting.
"We have had to delay 24 hours because of the shelling that took place this morning," park director Emmanuel de Merode told the Associated Press.
"There is very heavy fighting around the park headquarters."
Virunga is home to 480 of the world's 790 remaining mountain gorillas.
The latest unrest began in April with an army mutiny - and more than 200,000 people in the region have been displaced.
Mr de Merode said DR Congo's army and the M23 rebel group had agreed to allow the rangers to launch search operations for the gorillas in rebel-controlled territory.
"We are delighted and relieved that all sides in the conflict have recognised the need to protect DR Congo's only mountain gorillas," he said in a statement, issued before the search was delayed.
Mr de Merode said 45 rangers would work with local communities to try and track the primates.
"After locating the gorilla families, the park's gorilla monitoring teams will individually identify each member of the family," he said.
"Their health status will also be assessed as mountain gorillas are particularly vulnerable to disease."
Rangers were forced to evacuate Virunga Park in early May because of fierce fighting between government and rebel forces, he said.
"Extensive use of heavy machine guns, mortars and combat helicopters blocked all efforts to monitor and protect gorilla families that make their home in the surrounding forests," Mr de Merode said.
Virunga in eastern DR Congo is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and is on the UN list of World Heritage sites in danger.
The mountain gorillas have been threatened with extinction because of expanding human settlements, the long-running conflict in the region, and possible oil exploration in the park.
Jul 25, 2012 8:36 AM
2There are regular updates on the Virunga National Park website www.visitvirunga.org and "like" Virunga on Facebook...they post regular updates there as well.
Maybe things will stabilize by September...I doubt it. If they do, don't miss it...I wouldn't trade my 4 days there for the 30 I spent in Uganda and Rwanda.
FYI: Virunga National Park is not home to 480 of the world's remaining mountain gorillas...it's just over 200.
Jul 26, 2012 8:01 AM
Aug 15, 2012 2:37 AM
4To get the latest information on the security situation at Virunga National Park look on the update section on www.visitvirunga.org or contact the virunga sales officer Vianney Harakandi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be aware that Virunga National Park is closed at the moment, and that all tourism offered is run by the M23 rebels.
This means that if you would visit the gorillas, you are not only endagering yourself, but also the gorillas, as the rebels have no training and thus do not know how to approach and treat the groillas.
Besides the inherent danger of such a trek, there is another thing to consider and that is that all the money you pay for a rebel organised trek will go into funding that rebel group and thus actively contributing to the armed conflict in this area, again endangering people and animals in this area.
None of the money paid for these “permits” reaches Virunga National Park. Please be aware of this when considering trekking the gorillas in Virunga at this point.
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