RWANDAN GORILLAS LIVE–– LAKE VICTORIA MIGHT NOT
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:
VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK, Rwanda–– As of May
14, the mountain gorillas made famous by the late Dian Fossey were
unharmed by Rwandan civil strife, said Jose Kalpers, coordinator of
the International Gorilla Conservation Program.
The IGCP is sponsored by the African Wildlife
Foundation, the Fauna & Flora Preservation Society, and the World
Kalpers and the rest of the staff at Karasoke, Fossey’s for-
mer headquarters, were evacuated to Kenya shortly after the
Rwandan fighting broke out on April 6. Uganda closed Mgahinga
National Park on May 2, fearing fighting would spill over from the
Volcano National Park area of Rwanda––but it didn’t. By mid-May,
Kalpers said, he was able to visit Zaire, closer to Karasoke than his
temporary headquarters in Nairobi. From Zaire, Kalpers funded
resumed patrols by Rwandan and Zairean park wardens.
“The main threat to gorillas,” Kalpers explained, “is a pos-
sible increase in wire snares set for antelope, as these snares can also
harm gorillas.” Refugees from the ongoing Rwandan massacres
were believed likely to be poaching from hunger, not for profit.
While the 300 Rwandan mountain gorillas––half the world
population––may be relatively safe, Lake Victoria suffered eco-dis-
aster, choked with up to 40,000 bloated corpses of Rwandan mas-
sacre victims. The rotting bodies sucked the oxygen out of the water,
killing millions of fish. Ugandan volunteers were unable to drag
corpses out of the lake faster than they floated down the Kagera
river. As the slaughter went on into late May, it was apparent that
the lake, among the world’s largest, might not recover for several
years. Meanwhile, with the water unfit for drinking or bathing, and
the fish inedible, residents of all adjacent and downstream nations
were forced to realize that they too were victims of the worst geno-
cide since the Cambodian massacres of the late 1970s.