Rebels Take Over Park Headquarters in Gorilla Territory

Rebels Take Over Park Headquarters in Gorilla Territory

Paul Thomson

Fighting has broken out again in eastern DR Congo between rebels under General Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese Army. The rebels, who have been hiding out in Virunga National Park, have just taken the park headquarters. The park is home to about 200 of the 720 mountain gorillas.

"Over 50 rangers were forced to flee into the forests and abandon the park station, in fear of their lives," a park statement said.

Here's the latest from our people on the ground with the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP):

"As most of you already know, Nkunda's rebels have retaken the Rumangabo area in an offensive over the weekend. This area includes Virunga National Park HQ.

Rebel troops took Rugari and Mwaro corridor and now they are fighting to take Kibumba (which is at about 25 km from Goma). The road (Goma-Rutshuru) is broken, and some rangers who left Rumangabo since yesterday still somewhere in the forest.

So it looks like some of the park rangers are still making their way through the forest and the main road is now closed.? Kibumba has a patrol post and a large refugee camp, and is very near Goma.? In addition, from the AP I got a report that the rebels are now firing rockets at the UN Peacekeepers in the Kalengara area, which I believe is near the Rumangabo base and VNP headquarters."

I'll keep you posted as we hear more from the source.

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About the Author

Paul Thomson worked with African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi for a year before moving to Washington D.C. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is a member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership initiative. He has also contributed to a conservation campaign to combat the illegal trade of Asian pangolins. Paul enjoys photography, travel, hikes in the woods, music, and nyama choma.