The Charcoal Wars and the Conservation Movement – The End of the Mountain Gorillas


Villagers carry a silverback moutain gorilla slaughtered by the charcoal cartel.

Villagers carry a silverback moutain gorilla slaughtered by the charcoal cartel.

Mountain Gorillas of the Congo are being brutally murdered for charcoal. Not the bag of Kingsford charcoal you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart, but charred remains of old growth trees that make up the jungles of the Virunga Mountains. The region has been rocked by a three-way war that has seen a rise in death, rape, and kidnapping in the human population. Humanity in the area is replete with inhumane behavior among the warlords, gangs, and soldiers trying to win control of the one source of energy in the region, charcoal.

Beyond the human toll, the local wildlife is paying a heavy price, as well – namely the mountain gorillas. There are roughly 700 mountain gorillas left of the species. Their habitat is in the middle of the war torn region. The park rangers put into place during and after Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking research into the magnificent primates can no longer effectively protect the mountain gorillas. Many of the rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty, and a small number have joined the darker forces, organizing and contributing to raids into the area to secure more charcoal.

Seven mountain gorillas have been assassinated as a warning to the rangers who refuse to give up on the gorillas. The gorillas aren’t being poached for meat or souvenirs as they were in the past. They are being murdered. The gorilla’s corpses are left in tact for the rangers to discover during routine patrols.

The message? This land now belongs to the charcoal cartel. Interfere and more gorillas will die. But if they don’t interfere, the land will be stripped bare and the gorillas will die. What’s the solution? Clearly the international community has to step in, but to what degree? This is a region that seems to have only one endless resource, brutality. The international community did nothing while civil war broke out among the Hutus and Tutsis in the 90’s. Hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in the most horrific fashion. What hope is there for the mountain gorillas? I much fear the only solution is a large scale effort to relocate the gorillas. It would take armed troops, a team of scientists and enormous funds. Will it happen? No. It’s not even being seriously discussed. It’s a radical suggestion that no one supports.

The conservation movement can’t save the mountain gorillas. They have good intentions, but they focus too much on conservation. They want to conserve the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The mountain gorillas are beyond conservation. They need saving, and that will take measures the conservationists are not willing to endorse, and the rest of the world isn’t ready to contemplate.

The only conclusion I can draw is that mountain gorillas will die out soon. There are none  in captivity. It’s been tried, but the captured gorillas have never survived the ordeal. It is a sad comment when the worst thing for a species of animal is that they won’t be preserved in zoos.

I hope I’m wrong in this case. If you’ve read my books, you know how much gorillas mean to me. I wanted to be more upbeat in this posting, but it is impossible to find a positive. Maybe I’m too old and cynical.

You can read National Geographic’s article on this by clicking here: Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas?

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3 thoughts on “The Charcoal Wars and the Conservation Movement – The End of the Mountain Gorillas

  1. Pingback: Huge Lowland Gorilla Population Discovered in Africa « R.W. Ridley

  2. Just wanted you to know we linked to your site from our social network ecopaparazzi.ning.com/ You can check it out to see how we used content from your site and, if you like what you see there, feel free to join us. If possible, I would appreciate a link back. Thanks so much for doing the work you’re doing in raising awareness about important environmental concerns.
    Sincerely,
    The team at
    http://www.ecopaparazzi.ning.com

  3. John, you’re linked. Thanks for the feed from your site.

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