Gorilla warfare

Mai Mai rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a brutal assault on three ranger posts in Virunga National Park this week, killing Nicolas Mbusa Viranzire, a World Wildlife Fund worker, and threatening to slaughter the park’s endangered mountain gorillas if rangers attempted to retaliate. In January, the remains of “Karema,” a ...

601658_baby-gorilla5.jpg
601658_baby-gorilla5.jpg

Mai Mai rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a brutal assault on three ranger posts in Virunga National Park this week, killing Nicolas Mbusa Viranzire, a World Wildlife Fund worker, and threatening to slaughter the park's endangered mountain gorillas if rangers attempted to retaliate. In January, the remains of "Karema," a mountain gorilla in the same park, were found scattered, and locals believe that Mai Mai rebels killed and then ate Karema.

According to National Geographic, the Mai Mai emerged as a peasant uprising in the eastern DRC in the 1960s, and have gained a reputation for their brutality against animals. In October last year, Hippopotamuses in Virunga were "butchered by the hundreds," with Mai Mai rebels suspected to be at the center of the killings, reportedly eating and selling the meat of the animals and extracting their teeth for ivory. It's estimated that there are only 629 hippos left in Virunga—98 percent fewer than in the 1970s. So what exactly are the Mai Mai rebels trying to achieve? What are their specific grievances? Emmanuel de Merode, head of the Africa Conservation Fund based in Kenya, says that tragically,

Mai Mai rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched a brutal assault on three ranger posts in Virunga National Park this week, killing Nicolas Mbusa Viranzire, a World Wildlife Fund worker, and threatening to slaughter the park’s endangered mountain gorillas if rangers attempted to retaliate. In January, the remains of “Karema,” a mountain gorilla in the same park, were found scattered, and locals believe that Mai Mai rebels killed and then ate Karema.

According to National Geographic, the Mai Mai emerged as a peasant uprising in the eastern DRC in the 1960s, and have gained a reputation for their brutality against animals. In October last year, Hippopotamuses in Virunga were “butchered by the hundreds,” with Mai Mai rebels suspected to be at the center of the killings, reportedly eating and selling the meat of the animals and extracting their teeth for ivory. It’s estimated that there are only 629 hippos left in Virunga—98 percent fewer than in the 1970s. So what exactly are the Mai Mai rebels trying to achieve? What are their specific grievances? Emmanuel de Merode, head of the Africa Conservation Fund based in Kenya, says that tragically,

“Today they don’t have any clearly defined agenda other than the sort of thing that we are witnessing in Virunga National Park.”

Clearly, this leaves little room for reasoned negotiation. Until then, it will be guerilla vs. gorilla at Virunga.

Photo: STUART PRICE/Getty Images

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
Tag: War

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