Mystery of the Murdered Gorillas

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Mystery of the Murdered Gorillas

Postby Jeff » Wed Aug 22, 2007 10:35 am

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Conservation in a conflict zone: Mystery of the murdered gorillas

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

They are the latest victims of the chaos in Congo: nine mountain gorillas slaughtered in an apparently motiveless crime. Now the UN is trying to uncover the truth behind the massacre. Michael McCarthy and David Lewis report

Here it comes again, in an acute form, one of the most agonising questions for anyone who cares about the natural world: can Africa's wonderful wildlife ever be effectively protected?

It is being thrown into sharp relief by the killing this year, in four separate incidents, of nine mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mountain gorillas are among the world's rarest animals; there are only about 700 left, in two populations, one in the Virunga region, and one in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

But they're not only very rare, they're very special. Although all creatures surely have equal worth, it remains the case that some appeal to us more than others - the ones that serious zoologists sometimes lump together and label, with a sarcastic suggestion of the celebrity culture invading even natural history, charismatic megafauna. Tigers, giant pandas, golden eagles, dolphins, orchids - you couldn't really argue that most of us aren't drawn to them more than we are to rats and goldfish, spiders and lichens. And in that megafauna list, few creatures have more charismatic appeal than Gorilla berengei berengei.

It is nearly 30 years since the largest of all the great apes burst onto our consciousness, in the close encounters with David Attenborough, filmed for the twelfth episode of his seriesLife On Earth. In those magical 1978 meetings, when Attenborough patiently sat and waited for the Virunga animals to get used to him, and then actually played with them, we saw at first-hand what magnificent creatures they were - especially the huge, older males, known as silverbacks for the grizzled coat they develop. And we also saw the surprising truth about this beast which had been demonised as a skyscraper-toppling monster in King Kong: it is the gentlest of all the apes.

Five years later the American primatologist Dian Fossey published her own remarkable account of life with the Virunga animals,Gorillas in the Mist, which gave them a romantic, almost mythical status, enhanced by Fossey's own murder as she worked to protect them, in 1985.

Ever since, they have been among the world's most cherished animals - at least in the rich west. Yet they live at the heart of a region which exemplifies all that is increasingly tragic about Africa, in human terms, for the last three decades: the combination of poverty, unsustainable development, and war.

The Virunga region, the forested slopes of a range of extinct volcanoes, actually stretches over three countries: Rwanda and Uganda, as well as the DRC. All are very poor; all have been ravaged by conflict. Rwanda saw the genocidal war between Hutus and Tutsis in 1994; earlier, Uganda saw thousands die under the dictatorial regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote. But it is the DRC, one of Africa's biggest (and potentially richest) countries, which has suffered on the widest basis.

In 1998 the regime of President Laurent Kabila was challenged by rebels backed by both Rwanda and Uganda; Kabila in turn brought in troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. It was one of Africa's worst civil wars. Though it was officially brought to an end by Kabila's son Joseph, after his assassination, various rebel bands roamed at will, with Virunga one of the worst affected regions. When the people are desperately poor and civil order is in tatters, where is the funding for conservation? Where is the priority?

The Congolese have tried to make a fist of it, in spite of all the difficulties, through the Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), the DRC's wildlife and protected areas authority. But the cost has been huge. In the last 10 years, no fewer than 120 rangers from the Virunga National park have been killed by rebels and poachers. Yet despite all this - or perhaps because of the heroic effort these fatalities represent - Virunga's mountain gorillas have been doing well, and the population has increased from 330 to about 380. Which is why the recent killings have been do disturbing.

In January, two lone males were shot in separate incidents, it is thought by militiamen loyal to a rebel warlord, General Laurent Nkunda. In June, an adult female was shot in another incident, but her baby was saved and taken into care. The most distressing incident of all occurred in late July, when four members of a well-known, 12-strong gorilla band in the Mikeno sector were found executed - there doesn't really seem any other word for it.

They included the silverback and leader of the group, named by the rangers Rugendo, and three females: Neeza, Mburanumwe, who was pregnant, and Safari, whose baby Ndeze was brought to the town of Goma to be cared for by vets. (Another female gorilla and her baby are missing). The pictures of the group of four slaughtered animals, which went round the world, were wretched in the extreme.

Although there is a growing African trade in "bushmeat", (the hunting of forest animals, including primates, for human consumption) the gorillas' potentially valuable carcasses had been left lying where they were shot. Nor were they shot for trophies: the bodies had been burnt and slashed with machetes.

"It seems the people who did this were making a point," said Dr Noelle Kumpel, Bushmeats and Forests Conservation Programme Manager for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which is one of the western groups actively trying to help with gorilla conservation. "There are a lot of problems within the park, a lot of people living and trying to work inside the park." The main suspect at the moment is the local charcoal industry. Illegal charcoal traders have been cutting down trees in the gorillas' habitat and see the national park as a direct rival. It is an industry thought to be worth about 30 million dollars a year, as charcoal is in heavy demand in the mushrooming town of Goma - a village 10 years ago, now with a population of 400,000 - and also in neighbouring Rwanda, where there are heavy demands for charcoal but there are stict laws on producing it.

"There is a lot of pressure on the park to fuel the charcoal industry," said Samantha Newport, a spokeswoman for WildlifeDirect, a group supporting conservationists in Africa working in dangerous situations. "The killings are being interpreted as an attack on the park itself. There is no reason to suspect it is anything but sabotage. It is a way to exert pressure on the park to try and ensure it doesn't exist."

Two major responses to the killings have been made by conservationists. The first is a three-month emergency action plan, which includes round-the-clock monitoring for the six remaining gorilla families in the Mikeno sector. Teams of park rangers are working in relay to ensure that the remaining families are protected from attacks 24 hours a day. Furthermore, there will be increased patrols of critical areas by 30 guards mobilised from other parts of the park, and a census of the remaining gorillas by the endof August, to ensure an accurate, up-to-date understanding of the current situation.

The second has been a formal investigation into the killings by Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation, which maintains the list of World Heritage Sites, of which the Virunga National Park was one of the first to be declared, in 1978.

A team including representatives from Unesco, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environment Programme and the DRC's conservation body, the ICCN, have spent the last week trying to find out the truth about the massacre of the Rugendo band. The leader of the team, Yvette Kaboza, gets back to Unesco's Paris headquarters today and the report should be ready within 10 days.

It is hoped that its conclusions will feed into the emergency protection plan. But the scheme, which has been put together by the five main western-based conservation groups supporting the gorillas, including the ZSL, only has funds for three months and more money is urgently required.

The protection is a tough task. "Each month we go out for 10 days and monitor the families. This is very dangerous - there are armed groups in the park," said Innocent Mburanumwe, a ranger in charge of monitoring the gorilla families in the park's southern sector. "We face all sorts of problems, from the armed groups and the charcoal traders to the corruption. But if we risk death, we will fight to protect nature and the gorillas from being wiped out. It is our job."

"It's an example of the difficulties that face conservation in so many parts of Africa," said the ZSL's Dr Kumpel. And that determination to try, against such great odds, gives hope that conservation may succeed.

But it isn't all a hopeful picture. At the weekend, the missing female from Rugendo's band was found - and she too, had been killed, and her baby must be presumed dead along with her.

The Zoological Society of London is appealing for funds to maintain the emergency gorilla protection programme in Virunga beyond its three-month initial phase. Donations to the fund can be made by sending cheques payable to the Zoological Society of London to Dr Noelle Kumpel, Bushmeat and Forests Conservation Programme, Outer Circle, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4RY. Donations can also be made via the ZSL website: www.zsl.org

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Postby Stephen Morgan » Wed Aug 22, 2007 11:48 am

Two bears found dead on Hackney Heath. Skinned, I think. Did I dream this? From memory, small boys found bear prints in snow. Police searched. Two mutilated and dead bears found.

Also, headless lion in Kent reservoir.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- Lawrence of Arabia
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Postby Jeff » Wed Aug 22, 2007 11:59 am

I haven't been able to shake the story of 15 headless and bloodless kangaroos found in Melbourne.
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Infected Bran killed One Thousand Camels in Saudi Arabia

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:36 pm

http://www.iananews.com/english/details.aspx?id=634

Infected Bran killed One Thousand Camels in Saudi Arabia

Infected Bran in food of Camels killed poisoned two Thousands of them and killed One Thousand.


(IANA) – On the quotes of news websites of Qatar, 3 Thousands of Camels poisoned in Saudi Arabia and One Thousand of them were killed because of infected Bran.

“All of Camel growers will receive compensations,” stated the Agriculture Minister of this country.

Prevalence of this news concerned the authorities, Camel growers and related industries in this country.

“The most important factor of being poisoned and death of these animals was increased price of Barley in recent months and replacement of their diet with branny food,” stated the Camel growers, announcing that the main reason of this death was the changed food diet.


http://www.tv3.co.nz/News/Story/tabid/2 ... px#Scene_1
Mass camel deaths a mystery
Sun, 19 Aug 2007 12:53p.m.

A strange and mysterious illness has killed more than two hundred camels in an Isolated Valley close to Saudi Arabia's capital.

Saudi ruler King Abdullah has offered compensation for the precious animals - traded for thousands of dollars by Bedouin tribesman.

The ministry of Agriculture has denied an infectious disease has killed the creatures, instead blaming animal feed for the mass deaths.
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Postby MASONIC PLOT » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:30 pm

There are not many things I cannot handle emotionally, unfortunately this is one of them. Makes me sick beyond measure, whoever did this should be taken out and strung up. Animal abusers/killers are the worst kind of scum.


My first guess is that this, like all the other shit we see in the world, is some sort of covert operation to bring attention to the area, get people into a frenzy so that they demand intervention, then the UN responds with a presence in the area thereby securing the region for further western exploitation. Say what you will about my paranoia but this shit fucking happens and there are many who benefit.
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Postby FourthBase » Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:41 pm

I actually wouldn't be opposed to an intervention. I'd go, even.
But you might be right about it being a cover for something else.
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Postby Horatio Hellpop » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:21 am

Masonic, I've usually admired the tone and content of your posts. With regards to this post, you've lost me.

My first guess is that this, like all the other shit we see in the world, is some sort of covert operation to bring attention to the area, get people into a frenzy so that they demand intervention

I actually agree with you about this as a possibility. What saddens me is that for people like you and fourthbase and countless others this killing seems more upsetting than the thousands of men, women and children slaughtered in these regions each year.

'charismatic megafauna'

Can you articulate as to why this is one of the few things you cannot handle emotionally?

It just seems to me incredibly arbitrary and perhaps even hypocritical to get worked up about this one instance of vile human cruelty over the litany of examples that you can find just about anywhere you turn.
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Postby theeKultleeder » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:48 am

Horatio Hellpop wrote:Masonic, I've usually admired the tone and content of your posts. With regards to this post, you've lost me.

My first guess is that this, like all the other shit we see in the world, is some sort of covert operation to bring attention to the area, get people into a frenzy so that they demand intervention

I actually agree with you about this as a possibility. What saddens me is that for people like you and fourthbase and countless others this killing seems more upsetting than the thousands of men, women and children slaughtered in these regions each year.

'charismatic megafauna'

Can you articulate as to why this is one of the few things you cannot handle emotionally?

It just seems to me incredibly arbitrary and perhaps even hypocritical to get worked up about this one instance of vile human cruelty over the litany of examples that you can find just about anywhere you turn.


I don't know if the emotional response should be constrained by the identity of those slaughtered. I think maybe denouncing "speciesism" goes a little too far, but reverence for life is sorely needed in these times.

A pile of dead Africans would be more disturbing, but more disturbing than a pile of dead white Europeans? You see what I'm getting at.
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Postby MASONIC PLOT » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:57 am

Can you articulate as to why this is one of the few things you cannot handle emotionally?



I am sickened by it all my friend, but I have a special place in my heart for animals and those who kill and abuse them with impunity deserve a special place in hell. It is not so much that it upsets me more than the death of all the innocent humans, but we humans have put ourselves in the position for those things to happen, it is largely our own doing. The animals never asked for nor contributed to any of this crap. They deserve better.
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Sad.

Postby Hugh Manatee Wins » Thu Aug 23, 2007 2:09 am

As ugly as this execution of gorillas is, I think the larger crime is what the US Navy does to sealife with its sonar.

Whales, dolphins, all kinds of species are devastated by the noise pollution which kills many of them, many we never see.
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Postby Horatio Hellpop » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:25 am

The animals never asked for nor contributed to any of this crap. They deserve better.


"Mountain gorillas become killers when their social groups come face-to-face...One gorilla group will deliberately seek out another and provoke a conflict...An enormous male left a skirmish with his flesh so badly ripped that the head of an arm bone and numerous ligaments stuck out through the broken skin. Another left the battle scene with eight massive wounds where the enemy had bitten him on the head and arms. The site where the conflict had raged was covered with blood...Fossey actually recovered gorilla skulls with canine cusps from other gorillas still embedded in the skull's crest."

HOWARD BLOOM, THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION INTO THE FORCES OF HISTORY

"The males from the larger band of chimpanzees began to make trips south to the patch of land occupied by the splinter unit. The marauders' purpose was simple: to harass and ultimately kill the separatists. They beat their former friends mercilessly, breaking bones, opening massive wounds, and leaving the resultant cripples to die a slow and lingering death. When the raids were over, five males and one elderly female had been murdered. The separatist group had been destroyed; and its sexual active females and part of its territory had been annexed by the males of the band from the home turf."

HOWARD BLOOM, THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION INTO THE FORCES OF HISTORY


"Most of the domesticated primates of Terra did not know they were primates................

Benny was constantly alarmed and terrified by the behavior of himself, his friends and associates and especially the alpha males of the pack. Since he didn't know it was ordinary primate behavior, it seemed just awful to him"

R.A.Wilson - Schrodinger's Cat

I re-iterate that this seems a vile and senseless act and perhaps I'm steering this off topic but I do find it interesting the way we admire human characteristics in animals and despise animal characteristics in ourselves.

Like I said, it's evil and dumb but there are many innocent people who are suffering for no good reason.
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Postby MASONIC PLOT » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:35 am

Horaito--

You make some excellent points and have certainly made me rethink a lot of what I feel emotionally in regards to this. I appreciate the hard line you have taken as a means of getting me/us to look more closely at ourselves. That is always a good thing.
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Postby theeKultleeder » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:50 am

Horatio Hellpop wrote:The animals never asked for nor contributed to any of this crap. They deserve better.


"Mountain gorillas become killers when their social groups come face-to-face...One gorilla group will deliberately seek out another and provoke a conflict...An enormous male left a skirmish with his flesh so badly ripped that the head of an arm bone and numerous ligaments stuck out through the broken skin. Another left the battle scene with eight massive wounds where the enemy had bitten him on the head and arms. The site where the conflict had raged was covered with blood...Fossey actually recovered gorilla skulls with canine cusps from other gorillas still embedded in the skull's crest."

HOWARD BLOOM, THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION INTO THE FORCES OF HISTORY

"The males from the larger band of chimpanzees began to make trips south to the patch of land occupied by the splinter unit. The marauders' purpose was simple: to harass and ultimately kill the separatists. They beat their former friends mercilessly, breaking bones, opening massive wounds, and leaving the resultant cripples to die a slow and lingering death. When the raids were over, five males and one elderly female had been murdered. The separatist group had been destroyed; and its sexual active females and part of its territory had been annexed by the males of the band from the home turf."

HOWARD BLOOM, THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE: A SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION INTO THE FORCES OF HISTORY


"Most of the domesticated primates of Terra did not know they were primates................

Benny was constantly alarmed and terrified by the behavior of himself, his friends and associates and especially the alpha males of the pack. Since he didn't know it was ordinary primate behavior, it seemed just awful to him"

R.A.Wilson - Schrodinger's Cat

I re-iterate that this seems a vile and senseless act and perhaps I'm steering this off topic but I do find it interesting the way we admire human characteristics in animals and despise animal characteristics in ourselves.

Like I said, it's evil and dumb but there are many innocent people who are suffering for no good reason.


One of the areas in morality where Kant was at his krappiest was Justice. He taught that since a criminal exposed his moral imperative by the act, and that moral imperatives should be willed to be universal law, a criminal was due to be treated as he treated others.

Basic eye and eye, tooth and tooth stuff, which is idiocy.

If a jailer is given moral permission to act as a criminal, then the jailer is a crook, too. Or, ahem, a terrorist himself. To act like an ape in the face of apes is to become an ape, is what I'm saying.

It's also Karma. If a person behaves in a certain way, no matter the justification, the behavior will leave imprints on the mind, leading to a type of existence shaped by the behavior. In other words, justifications aside, in a State where torture is tolerated, we will all be torturing each other.

Thank you, Kant.
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Postby MacCruiskeen » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:54 am

Horatio and MP, I've heard it said that most, if not all, of the "murderous" aggression observed amongst higher primates is a result of their increasing loss of habitat and resources due to human pressure. (Just as most of the "murderous" aggression observed amongst human beings is due to the very same thing.)
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Postby MacCruiskeen » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:19 am

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