Date: Tue, 5 Aug 97 11:59:31 CDT
From: rich%pencil@YaleVM.CIS.Yale.Edu (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Urgent Action Is Vital To Save Congo's Wildlife Article: 15797
/** headlines: 148.0 **/
From: Glen Barry <email@example.com>
Urgent Action Needed to Save Congo's Ecosystem
Reuters, 22 July 1997
OVERVIEW, SOURCE & COMMENTARY by EE
While the tremendous human suffering occurring in Congo can and must not be forgotten, the area is also rich in wildlife (including white rhinos and mountain gorillas) and vegetation (one of largest rainforest expanses remaining). Following is coverage of the virtual collapse of wildlife parks harboring some of the World's most magnificent and endangered creatures. The call is made by WWF for urgent aid to save protected areas devastated by the fighting. Stabilization of the conservation area and surrounding ecosystem, and revitalization of local people's involvement and benefits from world class parks, could conceivably be the engine for sustainable development. Clearly the developed World must be willing to transfer resources and provide other assistance above and beyond their ongoing efforts - for areas of extreme ecological value faced by political, environmental catastrophes or other emergencies. Loss of the forests, wildlife and cultures of the Congo rainforest will be a catastrophe of global and historical significance.
GENEVA (Reuter) - Fast international action is vital to help the former Zaire save some of the world's most endangered animals including white rhinos and mountain gorillas, a major wildlife body said Thursday.
The Swiss-based World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the government of the newly-named Democratic Republic of the Congo was in urgent need of aid to save protected areas devastated in the last year of fighting in the east of the country.
"Major interventions are needed immediately or the world will lose species that exist only in this war-torn country," WWF Director-General Claude Martin said in a statement.
National parks like the world-famous Garamba, Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega areas and the Okapi Fauna Reserve, all listed by the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, were threatened with collapse, said Martin.
Fighting between forces of the now deposed president Mobutu Sese Seko and the Alliance of Democratic Forces of the new president, Laurent Kabila, had raged through the parks.
Much of their conservation equipment, including anti-poaching patrol vehicles and radios, had been looted. Park staff in Garamba could now only carry out 15 per cent of the anti-poaching operations that were routine before the conflict.
The WWF said aerial surveys in Garamba had shown only 24 northern white rhinos still alive, down from an estimated 31 a year ago. The survey revealed many poachers' camps and 29 dead elephants, 24 buffalos and 16 hippos, all freshly killed.
In the Virunga, Africa's oldest national park on Congo's borders with Rwanda and Uganda and near vast camps of refugees from Rwanda for some three years, militia groups were still active and heavy poaching was decimating wildlife.
In the last two years, 44 park guards had died on duty and 12 of the highly-endangered mountain gorillas -- one of only two populations still remaining on the continent -- had been killed.
The local hippo population had been almost wiped out, plunging from over 30,000 10 years ago to about 3,000 in 1996, the WWF said.
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