Last July, as we began to prepare an article about the mountain gorillas of Congo and Rwanda (Guerrillas in Their Midst) for the magazine, we received the horrible news that one of the gorilla families our author visited had been the victims of a brutal crime. Four gorillas—including the silverback Rugendo—had been killed. By the end of 2007, the body count at Virunga National Park reached ten. And to make the situation even worse, rebel forces had taken over the park and barred the rangers. Thus, the gorillas have gone unwatched and unprotected for months.
Today comes the news, though, that an arrest has been made in the case of last year’s gorilla killings. Honore Mashagiro, the head of the park’s southern sector, has been accused of organizing the killings, and six other foresters may be questioned about their role, BBC News reports. The gorillas may have been killed to divert attention from the illicit trade in a coal-like mineral called makala (according to the AFP) or the destruction of the forest to make charcoal (see the Gorilla Protection blog).