Photograph by Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images
In our March 2009 issue, writer Mark Jenkins examines how the bloody upheaval in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has affected one of the planet’s largest populations of mountain gorillas. His story focuses on the head ranger of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Merode, who brokered a groundbreaking peace accord with rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, allowing his rangers to operate behind enemy lines and monitor the gorillas. Today, General Nkunda, who Jenkins describes as “slick, brutal, and ambitious,” was arrested by Congolese and Rwandan soldiers. It is a remarkable turnabout for Nkunda, who had become one of Congo’s chief power brokers. But the arrest does not assure peace in Congo, nor does it ensure the safety of the mountain gorillas. The man replacing Nkunda, General Bosco Ntaganda, is known as "the butcher" and is also wanted on crimes against humanity. De Merode’s work continues and, as Jenkins explains, he will most likely have to keep rewriting the rules of conservation to ensure the mountain gorillas’ survival.
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