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The Virunga Mountain Gorillas These Days

Dian Fossey carrying out observations with a silverback

I’ve just finished reading Dian Fossey’s Gorillas In The Mist and I’m wondering how Nunkie’s Group are getting on these days.

A lot has changed in the Virunga mountains since Fossey’s horrific murder in 1985, and humans have encroached on the gorillas‘ diminishing territory even more. The 1994 Rwandan genocide interrupted the research at the Karisoke Study Centre, and, since then, this recent documentary has demonstrated that the remote gorilla territory is threatened by oil exploration, as well as poachers and farmers

When Fossey’s book was published in 1983, there were 282 known gorillas in the Virgunas, so one could be forgiven for feeling encouraged to read on Wikipedia that there are now 880. The species are still critically endangered. They have at least managed to avoid becoming one of the species discovered and annihilated in the same century, as Fossey feared.

The fight against SOCO is far from over, as the BBC has recently reported that the Democratic Republic of Congo wishes to redraw the boundaries of the park, which would presumably enable SOCO to drill for oil in certain areas. The prime minister of the DRC hopes to persuade the UN that drilling for oil in one of the most bio diverse habitats on the planet is not incompatible with its world heritage status. The Virunga park certainly meets the selection criteria because it

‘contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.’

Even SOCO admit that the ensuing pollution of oil exploration operations could destroy the vulnerable ecosystem and threaten the survival of already endangered species. Why risk that?

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