Gorillas in the Midst (of War)
The five-year-old war in Congo is taking a heavy toll on the nation’s wildlife. Officials in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park talk of “animal genocide” and estimate that about 100 of the 250 eastern lowland gorillas in the park have been killed since 1996, as well as about 300 of the 400 forest elephants alive before the war. Poachers, who trade elephant ivory and gorilla heads and eat the meat of butchered animals, have taken to doing their killing with automatic weapons, bought cheaply from former members of the Rwandan Army. Before the war, more than 3,000 tourists visited the park each year, and the money they spent helped local communities and convinced them of the value of protecting wildlife. But after eight tourists were killed in the park in March, tourism died out.