June 24, 2009

Violence In Congo Threatens Animal Population

Militant groups in one of Africa's historic Congo national parks have killed several animals since the start of the year, officials reported on Tuesday.

"Four chimpanzees were killed last week in the central zone and 11 elephants since the start of the year," park director Emmanuel de Merode told AFP.

Additionally, de Merode said "a large number of game animals" have been killed.

"At least 31 animals, including 11 migratory birds and three hippos were killed" between May 25 and June 16, NGO Innovation's Bantu Lukamba, told AFP.

The killings began shortly after militant groups entered the Virunga National Park and fights broke out between the government and the National Congress for the Defense of the People.

The Virunga National Park is the Africa's oldest park. It covers an area of 790,000 hectares and holds a diverse range of habitats. It is also well known for its chain of active volcanoes.

"It is impossible to get control the situation in the park, given the huge number of armed men who exploit its resources," Merode added.

In 1980, the park's Lake Edward was home to about 27,000 hippopotamuses. It now holds fewer than 300, Merode told AFP.