A war is threatening the existence of the Mountain Gorillas in DR Congo. Is peace the only way to keep these beautiful creatures from extinction?
Very rarely does the news about Congo involve its inherent natural beauty. Congo has the world’s second largest river as well as an incredible rainforest, and is stocked with much of Africa’s iconic wildlife. Elephants, giraffes, hippos, and of course the Mountain Gorilla all call Congo home. However the natural beauty of Congo is dwarfed by the political corruption, poverty, and military conflicts within the country. The less beautiful side of DR Congo has crept its way into the wildlife, and is now endangering the lives of the creatures that make it so beautiful.
Congo was a warring state from 1998 until 2003 when the new government came to power as the Democratic Republic of Congo. In what was called the “Great War of Africa”, over 5 million lives were lost, more from disease and starvation as a result of the war efforts than from the actual fighting. Since the war the DR Congo has had a central government, but conflict still exists in parts of the country, particularly the Eastern region.
Congo is a country rich in resources where there is opportunity for wealth, but due to corruption in government, constant rebellions, and an almost inexistent infrastructure and education system the wealth has not found its way to the common people. Rebel groups are constantly fighting against the government troops because many of the people still do not recognize the Democratic Republic as their governing body. Innocents are forced to suffer every day from the brutality of living in a war-zone.
Among the innocent who have suffered from this warring state are the Mountain Gorillas. The Mountain Gorilla population is now below 900, making them dangerously close to extinction. Outside of a small minority who collect Gorilla parts (a very sick minority if I do say so myself), the Gorillas have very little value on the black market and their population decline is not a direct result of Gorilla poaching. The Gorillas, like the people of Congo, are victims of an unstable government and a war that is destroying their habitat.
Part of the cause of deforestation is “slash and burn” agriculture. Because the education is so poor in Congo, the agricultural systems used by villages favor “slash and burn” over more efficient and environmentally friendly methods. Additionally, many forests are cut down to provide homes for displaced victims of the war. On top of taking away more of the small region that is habitable for Gorillas, the deforestation segregates the Gorilla families geographically, making it increasingly difficult for Gorillas to leave their families to find mates from neighboring Gorilla groups. This decreases the genetic diversity and the rate of reproduction within the population and prevents the Mountain Gorillas from being on the positive end of population growth.
On top of the destruction of forests, Gorillas are also killed by land mines and by poacher traps as “collateral damage” in the illegal hunting of other animals. But despite all of the damage we’ve caused for the African Mountain Gorillas, there are people out there who have dedicated their lives to saving these beautiful creatures. Without these people, the Mountain Gorilla may very well have gone extinct years ago. But we’re at a point where conservation efforts are simply not enough to save them, and at this rate they will cease to exist in the all too near future. Mountain Gorillas and many other endangered species throughout Africa will continue to be brought to the brink of extinction if we do not see steps towards reform in the African governments. The lack of education and corruption of governments throughout many African nations has endangered both the wildlife and the people of Africa. Constant civil wars have caused people to be raped, taken from their families, and killed while destroying the habitats of the creatures around us. Poaching has remained commonplace throughout Africa as many corrupt politicians and men of power have benefited financially from it, while the world around them suffers.
We’ve reached a point where we must help ALL of the creatures in Africa who we have harmed, and that includes both Gorillas and human beings. Despite all of their suffering, the Gorillas manage to live in peace with one another and protect their loved ones at all costs. If the Gorillas can live in peace amidst all of the chaos around them, then why can’t we?
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Mike Hogan