"The fate of Africa's rarest apes hinges on
battles over their territory as well as their taxonomy"
Gorilla Warfare, Craig B. Stanford, The Sciences, Jul/Aug 1999, pp.18-23.
Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, three of the most incendiary nations in Africa, are also home to some of Africa's rarest apes. Living high in the Virunga volcanoes is the last surviving population of mountain gorillas, or as they are officially known, Gorilla gorilla beringei. Only 600 of these easygoing, extremely shy herbivores remain. Craig Stanford, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles examines the factors which will ultimately decide the fate of these magnificent creatures. (Stanford studies gorillas and chimpanzees at a camp in Bwindi-Impenetrable Park.)
Made famous by the 1988 movie Gorillas in the Mist, the mountain gorilla became a major tourist attraction, a fact which was not ignored by the Ugandan government.
Soon, gorilla tourism in the Virunga volcanoes was that country's second highest source of revenue, after coffee. Stanford goes on to explain how the governments of these countries were interested in preserving the gorillas because they were such an important source of revenue. When guerilla soldiers kidnapped and killed several tourists, however, the gorilla tourism obviously took a devastating blow. Without the revenue, the governments do not feel as strongly about protecting the great apes.
It is of particular interest to Albertan's to read of the involvement of Stanford's colleague, Mitch. Mitch is from Three Hills, Alberta, and was one of the six tourists to survive the kidnapping of fourteen tourists in Buhoma. Mitch has since returned to Uganda, working for the International Gorilla Conservation Programme in Kabale.
Stanford reports that, although their political troubles run very deep, representatives from...