Willing to pay the ultimate price to protect animals

A baby mountain gorilla sits on her mother’s shoulders on the slopes of Mount Mikeno in the Virunga National Park, Eastern DRC, December 12, 2008. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

by George Soros

Protecting the environment can be deadly.

At least two defenders fighting against environmental destruction around the world were killed each week last year. Many more people engaging in peaceful struggles to protect nature regularly face down serious threats or violence.

Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been the scene of one such struggle. Over the past 20 years, roughly 130 of its park rangers have been killed while protecting the park and its communities from rebel forces, poachers and other threats.

A park ranger carries orphaned female mountain gorillas Ndeze and Ndakasi at a protected location at Rumungabo in Virunga National Park, August 17, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

Virunga is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse parks. More than 218 species of mammals, 706 species of birds, 109 species of reptiles and 2,000 species of flora are spread over 3,000 square miles of lush tropical forest, semi-arid savanna and snow-capped mountains. One quarter of the globe’s remaining mountain gorillas live there, as well as the endangered Zebra-like Okapi, which is found only in Congo.

In addition to rebel groups and poachers, the park has been under threat for decades from the illegal charcoal trade. Now it faces grave danger because of the arrival of the oil industry.

A coalition of community members and local groups, led by anti-corruption and environmental activists Alphonse Muhindo and Bantu Lukambo, has sought to prevent an oil company, SOCO International, from drilling in the park. The activists say that oil exploitation could irreparably damage Virunga’s fragile ecosystem, increase instability throughout the region and ravage established park programs for sustainable development and tourism.

SOCO International claims that its investments “can help alleviate the pervasive poverty that has for decades been the stimulus for much of the region’s instability and conservation’s primary threat.”

A bullet-riddled sign marks the entrance to Virunga National Park, occupied by rebels and other armed militias during years of conflict near Goma in eastern Congo, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

Local activists, however, have argued‎ that the park would better benefit local communities if hydropower, tourism and sustainable fishing projects were developed instead. These industries have major long-term economic potential…

Read on:-


Dian Fossey’s 82nd Birthday 

The leading authority of endangered gorillas would have turned 82 today (Jan 16) if it wasn’t for her untimely death in 1985. Dian Fossey worked in the tangled slopes of Rwanda studying mountain gorillas and developing a habituating process which was never done before. Louis Leakey sent her to the Congo in 1966 and began her conservation work by 1967 in Rwanda. She was the closest researcher to the gorillas than ever before. Her research camp was 9,000 feet up Mount Visoke and was her home and battleground for almost twenty years. She fought bravely for the lives of the mountain gorillas and put their safety and health before hers. She is an inspiration to all and to those who help save endangered animal lives.

Read her articles “The Imperiled Mountain Gorilla published in April 1981 and Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas published in January 1970.

Mountain Gorilla, Congo

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Of the many threats facing the endangered mountain gorilla, habitat loss is one of the most pressing. Trees in the Virunga range are often cut down for charcoal production. Here, a young mountain gorilla takes in the view from a tree branch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


These incredible pictures show the moment when unlucky wildlife photographer Christophe Courteau gets punched by a rowdy silverback mountain gorilla, who has become drunk after eating too many bamboo shoots.

Christophe was taking some snaps in the Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda when Akarevuro(leader of the Kwitonda Group), a 250 kg alpha male, appears to take a dislike to being photographed. He can be seen clenching his fist before charging at the photographer who, amazingly, escaped with just a small scar on his forehead.


Our own Dr, Oliver Ryder captured rare footage of wild baby gorillas playing in Rwanda. A cute reminder of the appeal of this endangered species and the importance of protecting them. (WARNING: Cute overload)

Mountain gorilla genome provides hope for animal’s future

Rescued as a 4-year-old from poachers in 2007, Kaboko was raised in a gorilla orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He got sick and died at age 9, never having the opportunity to breed and help the mountain gorillas recover from the low numbers that threaten their existence. But with his blood and that of six others, researchers have now delved into the history and health status of these endangered animals and concluded their fate may be less dire than some have feared.

RWANDA, SABYINYO : A baby mountain Gorilla, member of the Agashya family, is pictured in the Sabyinyo Mountains of Rwanda on December 27, 2014. Rwanda, well known for mountain gorillas – an endangered species found only in the border areas between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and hosted more than a million visitors between 2006-13, generating from the national parks alone $75m (£44m) in tourism revenue in that time; 85% of this is from trekkers who come to see some of the country’s 500 gorillas. AFP PHOTO / Ivan LIEMAN