Congo war kills apes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2000:

At least three eastern lowland gorillas were killed in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Congo, during January 2000, reports the Primate Conservation and Welfare Society. This brought the gorilla toll within the par k to 151 within b arely two years, leaving no more than 90 survivors.

The total wild eastern lowland gorilla population is under 17,000––all of them in the Congo, no w center of the biggest war in African history.

The Georgia-based Gorilla Haven sanctuary charged that the Rwandan Patriotic Army and the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie aided the poaching, which has also virtually wiped out the Kahuzi-Biega elephants, by disarming the park rangers. The Gorilla Haven sources were apparently Germans who are assisting civilian refugees.

Joseph Karamera, Rwandan ambassador to South Africa, denied the Gorilla Haven report, and told Gregory Mthembu-Salter and Ruth Kansky of the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian that the Rwandan Interahamwe and Congolese Mai-Mai militia were more likely to be responsible. Karamera also said that Rwandans don’t eat bushmeat. The Interhamwe have been attacking nearby villages since December 1999.

Elsewhere in the Congo, Mthembu-Salter and Kansky wrote, “Bonobos, and found only in the Congo, have the misfortune to live on the front line between the forces of Congolese President Laurentand Kabila and rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, in Equateur province. The result has been their mass killing for bushmeat, most of which appears to travel down the Congo river with Kabila’s soldiers to Kinshasa.”

The war is contributing to habitat loss, as well as direct killing––and even if the damaged forests are allowed to regenerate, Purdue University doctoral candidate William Olupot warned, they may not support many nonhuman primates for several decades.

Studying 31 male gray-cheeked mangabeys, a relatively small species, in Kibale National Park, Uganda, Olupot found that those living in areas logged as long as 40 years ago were on average 15% lighter.

“The lower weights were not related to skele – tal size or the age of the animals,” said Olupot, “which means that the difference might be attributed to different nutritional conditions and habitat quality.”

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