In August of 2007, rebels had taken over Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the few habitats of the extremely endangered mountain gorilla. In turn, most of the rangers and staff fled the rebel-occupied area.
Last Tuesday, a group of reporters, rangers, and scientists returned to the area for the first time in 15 months. What they discovered was uplifting: a family of mountain gorillas contently consuming bamboo stalks.
Ironically, the rebel hold of the area actually benefited the gorillas as it shifted the area of fighting away from the gorilla habitat. According to Benjamin Nsana, a park guide who elected to stay behind when the rebels took control, the area was safe for gorillas because the rebels guarded the perimeters so carefully. In fact, 6 babies were born since last year.
For more information about the rangers’, scientists’, and reporters’ recent trip to Virunga National Park, see the AP’s “Congo gorillas survive in rebel-held forest.”