This sort of article annoys me greatly: From the UK Telegraph:

Renewed fighting threatens Congo gorillas

Heavy fighting between rebels and government soldiers is again threatening Congo’s already endangered population of mountain gorillas…”All of this fighting is taking place a stone’s throw from Congo’s gorilla sector and the rangers of the Congolese Wildlife Authority are powerless to do anything about it. The reverberations were loud and strong. The mountain gorillas could undoubtedly hear all this activity too.”

Well, F*** the gorillas. I’ve lived in Africa, and when I hear of war, I don’t think of some politically correct monkeys getting upset about hearing the noise of battle. I worry about other things, such as this little problem:

“Almost the entire population of the area has fled,” he said, adding that army forces had put attack helicopters into the skies and were reinforcing their positions.

So the entire population has fled? How many people do you mean?

map from BBC

No, the article doesn’t say nor do several other articles I found lamenting the poor animals.

But if you google the name of the area, rather than the name of the Wild life area, you find the number affected by this war since the fighting started in 2006:

North Kivu is again a crucible of conflict in Congo. Since fighting resumed between the insurgents of Laurent Nkunda and the national army in December 2006, over 370,000 civilians have been displaced in the province. Due to the failure of the latest attempt to integrate Nkunda’s troops into the army, the crisis has become much worse since May 2007. UN attempts to impose a ceasefire and appoint a special envoy to mediate have failed.

Refugees mean a lot of things, such as children who aren’t well nourished dying of diarrhea, women dying in childbirth because there are not enough birth attendants, people with HIV unable to get basic medicines, children dying of measles and other preventable diseases, and then there are the problems of war: War injuries and rapes.

Doctors Without Borders has a nice article here that lists what they are seeing:

For the inhabitants of North Kivu, insecurity is also illustrated by daily clashes between armed groups, stray bullets, and ransacked villages. Over three months ago, thousands of people fleeing combat and forced conscription into armed groups set up a camp for displaced persons a few hundred meters from the village of Bukombo, northeast of Masisi. They received no assistance. Faced with almost unbearable living conditions, some of them settled in the surrounding villages with local families. All in all, more than 1,500 households were added to the local population.

So the gorillas aren’t the only ones in danger, but they are the ones who get the publicity. And westerners give no thought that their eagerness to help gorillas has resulted in over 100 park rangers losing their lives. This blog boasts of their gorillas and has a few photos of beaten rangers and widows of rangers…since the widow is living in a traditional hut we can presume she doesn’t get a large pension.

Yet what is the priority to protect wildlife when babies are dying?

Yes, the UN has peacekeeping soldiers there, and yes there are church and NGO groups. But I suspect that if half the money spent for gorilla protections was invested in real peacekeepers and into the infrastructure, you might end up with both gorillas and the local people both being safe.

Yes, I am happy there are richly funded wildlife organizations to protect animals.

I just wish the rich western animal lovers would bother to worry about the danger to the human beings in the area.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She worked in two African countries when she was younger. Her website is MakaipaBlog.

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