Rebels kill ranger in Congolese national park, threaten officials and gorillas

Rebels attacked three ranger posts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park this weekend, killing one wildlife officer, wounding three more, and taking 13 hostages. While the human prisoners were released, the Mai Mai rebels still have hostages of a sort: they have made it clear that they’ll start killing endangered mountain gorillas if rangers try to retaliate. About half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the 2-million-acre Virunga, which is Africa’s oldest park and a United Nations World Heritage site. It has been a long-standing hotspot for conflicts between locals who live in the park illegally and conservationists; more than 100 rangers have been killed in recent years trying to protect wildlife there. The Mai Mai are only one of several groups who have used violence to vie for power and resources in the area. “It’s sometimes quite difficult to see what really triggered the violence,” says one ape advocate. “The situation is very fragile.”