Friday, August 17, 2007

Appeal for Help after Congo Gorilla Massacre

LONDON -- Wildlife conservation experts appealed on Friday for funds to help protect rare mountain gorillas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after four adults were found shot dead last month.

The Zoological Society of London said a special protection zone with extra patrols had been set up in the area where the one dead silverback male and three females were found, but funds were desperately needed to help pay for it.

"The massacre of four mountain gorillas was a devastating tragedy and it is now essential that we provide constant protection to the remaining families," Noelle Kumpel, ZSL's Bushmeats and Forests Conservation Programme Manager, said.

"Shockingly, this is not the first time that gorillas in the park have been slaughtered in this way and we are calling on the public to support our appeal for funds to help us ensure that it does not happen again," she added.

The four were found dead in the southern sector of the Virunga National Park which contains more than a fifth of the world's population of 700 mountain gorillas.

ZSL said another female and her infant were still missing and the killing had orphaned one gorilla.

Earlier this year another two silverbacks and a female were shot in Virunga, apparently by Congolese rebels for bush meat.

Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was a significant tourist attraction before Congo's 1998-2003 war which devastated the east of the vast Central African country, triggering a humanitarian disaster that has killed more than 4 million people.

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