The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (previously known as Zaire) has been in turmoil for more than 20 years. Amid the chaos of war and humanitarian tragedies, preserving unique habitats and the endangered species who live in them is not easy, to put it mildly.
Of the 800-some mountain gorillas that still exist in the wild, about a quarter of them lives at the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo. As the park’s director, Emmanuel de Merode, says, “It’s absolutely exceptional. If we lose this park, we lose something that could never be recovered. And so, that does require a huge commitment and a huge sacrifice to protect it.”
In 2012, CNN’s David McKenzie visited Virunga National Park, met some of the gorillas, and spoke with de Merode. As you’ll see in the video posted below, two of those gorillas were orphans, only about two months old when they were rescued. According to de Merode, “They had a very difficult start in life. They were recovered from poachers, from the bodies of their mothers after their families had been attacked… Well, it is pretty miraculous. I mean, baby gorillas at that age very rarely survive.” Although gorillas are extremely strong, they actually have shy, gentle temperaments. That’s certainly the case with the young gorillas you’ll see in the video. Several of them have friendly, even tender, interactions with the reporter, the park director, and a ranger.
Because of the ongoing civil war, travel from one part of the park to another required a small plane. That’s a reminder of how precarious the situation is. “There are a number of main threats. Obviously, we’re now very worried about the state of war we’re living through. The gorillas could end up in the crossfire. It’s happened before. It could happen again.”
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