Gorillas dying out

Published: Saturday 15 April 2000

Peering into a bleak future<sc the population of gorillas has declined alarmingly in the war-ravaged eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Several years ago there were 258 gorillas in the highlands of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park situated outside the Bakavu town. Today, only 70 gorillas remain.

In the last one year, most of the gorillas have been killed by poachers, military personnel and villagers in search of food. "When you see that there are only 70 gorillas left, you have to sound the alarm," says park conservator Valery Kasereka, with a warning: "Soon there won't be any left at all." Kahuzi-Biega has been officially closed to tourists since August 1998 when rebels took up arms against President Laurent Kabila.

But Kahuzi-Biega suffered its worst catastrophe in 1994 when soldiers from the former Rwandan Army fled into the Congo and took refuge in the park. Even today park officials say they have access to only about five per cent of Kahuzi-Biega. The park's lowlands are overrun with bandits.

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