[slideshow gallery_id=”3″]Wildlife groups see hope for Mountain Gorillas since the recent dismantling of the rebel group M23 by the UN-backed Democratic Republic of Congo military.
According to Kathleen Garrigan, Communications and Marketing Officer, African Wildlife Foundation, the rebellion by the M23 had endangered the habitat of the Mountain Gorillas as it often served as a battleground in the conflict between the armed group and the Congolese government.
She said the conflict made it difficult for rangers in DRC’s Virunga National Park to monitor and protect the critically endangered great ape.
After more than a year and a half in conflict against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the M23 rebel group has announced it will disband and disarm, paving the way for peace in eastern Congo. The recent events are a positive sign not only for people, but also for the endangered mountain gorilla, whose habitat has inadvertently served as home base and occasional battlefield for the rebel group.
“The disbanding of the M23 rebel group will mean one less threat to the mountain gorilla, and that is a very positive thing,” remarked Jef Dupain, director of the Great Apes Program for the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). “We must remain vigilant, however, as a few dozen rebel groups are still thought to operate in this area. The potential for conflict, in addition to the other threats that great apes face, means that ensuring stabilization of the mountain gorilla population must remain a priority for conservation groups and the region’s governments.”
According to AWF, although routine monitoring of gorilla groups by protected area authorities had been interrupted, some reports from limited monitoring suggested the gorillas were faring well; however, resumed routine monitoring will reveal the whole story.
Garrigan however says that while the end to the insurgency is certainly good news, the historical instability of the region and the existence of dozens of other rebel groups in the area continue to pose a threat to mountain gorillas, of which there are only about 880 in the world.
Africa is home to four of the world’s five great apes. All four—which include the eastern gorilla, of which the mountain gorilla is a subspecies, western gorilla, bonobo, and common chimpanzee—are either endangered or critically endangered. In an effort to provide greater protections to great apes and their habitats across Central and West Africa, AWF recently launched the African Apes Initiative.