The year 2009 has been declared the Year of the Gorilla to focus attention on the threats to the small remaining populations in central Africa as well as to celebrate and honor them. In eastern Congo where several hundred mountain gorillas live, some measure of peace has returned, although only after massive human suffering and death (and the civil conflict could break out again). The rangers, who’d been chased by rebels out of Virunga National Park, are back, and they and their colleagues are blogging regularly about the individual gorillas and the threats they continue to face, including from the lucrative charcoal trade.
Almost incredibly, a recently completed census found that the gorilla population inside Virunga has increased 12.5%, despite the instability of the surrounding environment. Just a few weeks ago, a baby gorilla was born. “Following tradition,” writes Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga National Park director, “the gorilla will be named after one of the many rangers who have died in the service of protecting Virunga’s wildlife.” An apt way to honor and to celebrate and to consider what’s really at stake.