Mountain Gorilla Updates, 2000
I recently received a letter written by Sebastien Honore that provides a synopsis of the current state of affairs for the Mountain Gorilla and he has graciously given his permission for me to post it on this website.
MARKED FOR EXTINCTION BECAUSE OF POLITICS.
Unfortunately this is another doom and gloom story. However you can help. You can make a difference; you can help save the gorillas.Congo's Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in the highlands overlooking Lake Kivu. It is prime mountain rainforest and the home of 280 gorillas. This is one of the last remaining gorilla sanctuaries in the world. Further it abounds with other wildlife including forest elephants. Truly it deserves its World Heritage listing!
Miraculously the park survived Congos' political upheavals and wars, that is until three years ago when Rwanda invaded this part of the Congo. Now the Rwanda-backed government has disarmed the park rangers and left the poachers free to slaughter the gorillas in the park. Let's not mince on words: with unarmed park rangers the poaching is wholesale and totally simply out of control. Without your help the park and the gorillas are doomed.
This is January 2000, the dawn of the new millennium. Mankind rejoices because it has now the scientific, technological basis and the human and humane wisdom necessary to plan a bright future for the planet. Yet on the dawn on the new millennium, precisely on January 1, 2000, the remnants of three gorillas slaughtered by poachers were found in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. In January 2000 there remain in the Park at most 99 gorillas, three years ago there were 280 gorillas. In plain words, 65% of the gorillas have been slaughtered. Only one gorilla out of 3 has survived Rwanda's military invasion of Congo three years ago.
The slaughter of gorillas continues today as you read this news. Other wildlife has also suffered even worse. There remain at best 20 elephants, at worst 5 elephants. Three years ago there were at least 320 elephants. That is a 95% extinction rate. It started three years ago when elephant meat from animals killed in the park started to be shipped to Rwanda to feed the Rwanda army. The park rangers are very keen and motivated. However the Rwanda-backed government has disarmed them (this area of Congo has been paired with the small Butare province of Rwanda). The park rangers do patrol the park, but they are unarmed. They are facing poachers who have automatic weapons, including Kalachnikov. It is no contest, the poachers' bullets versus the body of park rangers! The gorillas lose everytime and every day and pay with their life. The park rangers are attacked and killed by the poachers and without weapons they cannot defend themselves. The rangers can't even sleep in the park anymore, they come early morning in the park and count more slaughtered gorillas weekly. All the park rangers can do is stay with the two habituated families in daytime and hope for the best. However when the armed poachers come in, the unarmed park rangers have to flee. The park rangers are no cowards, indeed until they were disarmed by Rwanda-backed government they were patrolling the park efficiently, they had no fear to track and stop the armed poachers, there was virtually no poaching.
I met Mugaruka, the young silverback. Recently, after Rwanda disarmed the park rangers, this 200-kg gorilla lost a hand. He tore it from a steel trap set by poachers. Can you imagine the pain, the anguish, the suffering? I saw all this in his eyes. Yet his eyes expressed the fear and knowledge he is condemned to death in a most cruel manner. So much for man's enlightenment in the new Millennium!
What is the reason? It is not money. It is not starvation. It is not an accident. It is human greed and geopolitics. The Kahuzi-Biega is a repeat of the situation in Rwanda's 6000 km2 Akagera National Park. To avoid the Western World outrage if the park was degazetted outright, the Akagera National Park was destroyed one step at a time by the Rwanda government over the last 4 years. First the rangers were disarmed and poachers run free; then the army slaughtered the dangerous animals such as lions; then cattlemen with the correct political connection were allowed in; then the charcoal burners were allowed in to deforest the area; and step by step the land was unofficially but efficiently opened for settlers with the correct political connections. Finally when fauna and flora were all gone and the park was de facto not a park anymore, the bulk (75%) of the park was degazetted. Government ministers became rich landlords in the process.
Unfortunately this scenario seems to be repeated in Congo's Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The same Rwanda government is effectively in control. The policy clearly seems to be to let the poachers eradicate gorillas in order for Rwanda officials to seize the land once the park loses its value after the gorillas are gone. In Rwanda none of the large conservation groups and societies uttered a word of protest to the press or to the Rwanda government when the Akagera National park was destroyed. They were afraid to be accused to be insensitive to the human tragedy. Certainly people have suffered untold miseries in the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda. Nevertheless that does not excuse a deliberate policy of bringing gorillas to extinction.
There is a precedent for that. In World War II in Poland the last European wild buffaloes were preserved by all sides at war (the Nazis, the communists and the Polish underground) in the middle of untold human misery, a war, mass murders and mass starvation, because the people believed that when peace will return these wild animals were an important heritage of their country and had to be preserved. This demonstrates that human misery does not excuse bringing rare animals to extinction.
There is no reason to repeat with the gorillas of Kahuzi-Biega National Park the mistake of the Akagera National Park, namely to stay silent. The situation in Kahuzi-Biega is, plain and simply, barbaric - just look into the suffering eyes of Mugaruka and you will understand that we, people, owe it to humanity to save the gorillas of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park before Rwanda destroys this park and its gorillas.
Money is not the issue here. Please do not send money! Instead, please write your concern to the press. Mainly and most importantly for the people from the USA, Japan and EEC reading this, please write to your representative in parliament and request that your democratic government stops all financial aid to Rwanda until it abandons its policy of leading gorillas to extinction. Rwanda is totally dependent on foreign aid, your message will bite, will count and will help save the gorillas of Kahuzi-Biega. It is your taxpayer money that is now helping Rwanda bring gorillas to extinction. You have control on that money. Only you can save the gorillas. Only you writing to your government representative to stop financial assistance to Rwanda until Rwanda stops promoting the slaughter of gorillas, will stop the deliberate extinction of gorillas.
PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR GOVERNMENT.
If you have additional information that you would like to post on this website about the Mountain Gorillas, please email me.