The Virunga National Park website has released a video of Miza (Mutazimiza) the baby gorilla orphaned last year during the attack on the Kabirizi family, and star of our book Looking for Miza which is her story about how she survivied the ordeal. After 14 months of conflict it is a huge relief to see that she is doing so well.
Meanwhile the ICCN rangers have joined rebels in the gorilla sector of Virunga National Park – the early progress is reported by Edmund Sanders in the Los Angeles Times
“Rebels and government officials tentatively agreed for the first time last month to work together in the gorilla sector. The agreement came a month after rebels seized the park’s headquarters in nearby Rumangabo.
As he recently resettled into his office at park headquarters under the new arrangement, De Merode said he hoped to dispatch 41 park rangers to join the 30 who already work in the gorilla sector. He also planned to re-establish five 24-hour patrol posts and resume formal surveying of the families.
But it remains unclear whether the government and rebels will be able to set aside their differences.
Park officials questioned the qualifications and political motives of rangers who stayed behind.
“These rangers are not fully trained in gorilla-monitoring,” De Merode said. “They’ve been a little cavalier.”
Government officials pressured all but one international conservationist group to suspend their work with the gorillas after the rebel takeover and discouraged tourism, saying the proceeds would fund the insurgency.
“They said I was a rebel,” Kanamahalagi said. “They spoiled my name.”
Park officials also have accused the rebels of attacking some rangers, often because of their ethnicity. Tutsi rangers, who are part of the same ethnic group as rebel leader Nkunda, were allowed to remain in the park, some say, although others were chased away.
“The risk was I would be killed,” said Innocent Mburanumwe, head of gorilla monitoring, who fled after the rebel takeover. He said rangers who tried to return were robbed and attacked.
Park officials also have accused rebels of killing and eating of two gorillas last year.
Rebels contend that their soldiers are too disciplined to ever hurt gorillas. They accuse park officials of corruption and mismanagement, saying they exaggerate the threat to gorillas in a bid for international support.
“They need to lie for their fundraising,” said Babou Amani, deputy spokesman for Nkunda’s movement, National Congress for the Defense of the People.
He said control of the gorilla sector fell into the rebels’ lap during an offensive to seize strategic land near the Ugandan border. But he said they took the responsibility seriously.
“For us, gorillas are worth more than diamonds,” Amani said.
To demonstrate their commitment, rebels have been organizing visits, a kind of guerrillas’ gorilla tour for journalists and others. A recent trip suggested that rangers are well-intentioned, if not always well-trained.”
Meanwhile, help has been proposed for orphaned gorillas. A group of international conservation organizations is building a center to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce orphaned gorillas back into the wild. The sanctuary will cover 150 hectares near Lubero in the northeastern corner of Congo and will cater for up to 30 gorillas. The center $300,000 center will cost 100,000 to run each year,
To finance this U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development have put up some money, and so has The Walt Disney Company, which operates a number of animal parks in the United States and promotes conservation. Hopefuly lasting peace can be achieved in the region to make this center a success. Read more about it here