So here we are in Bukavu, and after a very positive meeting with the park warden, are preparing to visit the park and the habituated gorillas tomorrow.
But this area faces many other problems that the world has largely ignored. We spoke to a BBC news crew this evening who have been filming the mining issue from the human rights point of view. Their presence here was triggered by the recent report by Global Witness (www.globalwitness.org) on the shared responsibility we in the developed world must recognise for on-going atrocities linked to militias controlling mining operations. When we buy electronic goods, we cannot say for sure that our money is not paying for tin or tantalum (mined here in eastern DRC as cassiterite and coltan respectively) bought from rebel militias who repeatedly rape and murder to terrorise civilians in their sphere of influence.
Some half a million people have fled from their homes in eastern DRC as a result, and the death toll since the war began is 5 million and rising. Humanitarian reports from this region make shocking reading, and lead one to wonder why more is not being done. If even one of the hundreds of such incidents were to happen anywhere else in the world, it would be front-page news, but few reporters cover the violence in DRC. In the face of such chilling events, why would anyone care about a few gorillas being killed for bushmeat?
The fact is, before the war, the gorillas in Kahuzi Biega brought thousands of tourists and prosperity to the region. The DRC parks department is working towards the day when the tourists return, and already a few brave pioneers are turning up each week to enjoy a gorilla encounter. Moreover, the agriculture in this region depends on the rainfall generated by the forest; and the future of the forest depends on the seed dispersal agents such as primates, elephants and hornbills surviving to play their ecological role, sowing the trees of tomorrow.
With that thought, I will blog off and get some kip before tomorrow comes!Cheers,Ian
Visit www.yog2009.org for more on the Year of the Gorilla.