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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2008, 12:54 GMT
Ranger held over gorilla killings
Rangers standing next to four dead gorillas (Image: Altor IGCP Goma)
Conservationists around the world were shocked by the gorilla killings
A senior wildlife park official in Democratic Republic of Congo has been arrested amid claims that he organised the killing of rare mountain gorillas.

The Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) is reported to have brought the charges against Honore Mashagiro - one of its members.

Ten gorillas were killed in 2007 in the Virunga National Park, a Unesco world heritage site.

The park is in a volatile region where rebels have set up a base.

The area is also home to more than half of the world's last 700 mountain gorillas living in the wild.

Six other foresters could be questioned over the killings, and their role in trapping and slaughtering the animals on the alleged orders of Mr Mashagiro, reports say.


At the time, conservationists described the killings as "executions" because the gorillas' bodies were left at the scene, whereas poachers would have sold the carcasses as either food or trophies.

The national parks have suffered during this period of instability
Amir Bazarbacha,

Local environment experts said the killings could be linked to the charcoal industry.

They suggested that the gorillas could have been killed to create a diversion from this illicit trade.

Mr Mashagiro, head of the southern section of the Virunga park, was arrested in the eastern town of Goma on Tuesday.

The conservation group WildlifeDirect, which works in the park, said the arrest was a positive sign for wildlife protection in DR Congo.

Map showing location of Virunga National Park
"The national parks have suffered during this period of instability which DR Congo has gone through," said Congo programme manager Amir Bazarbacha.

"After more than a decade of civil war and conflict, ICCN has been considerably incapacitated.

"This arrest shows that ICCN has clearly regained control of its management and is making the effort to purge itself of any person responsible for weakening the organisation by favouring the bushmeat trade or any other illegal activities."

Gorilla rangers execution threat
07 Mar 08 |  Science/Nature
Diary: Protecting mountain gorillas
19 Feb 08 |  Science/Nature
The world of mountain gorillas
25 Jan 08 |  Science/Nature
Q&A: Gorilla protection diary
07 Feb 08 |  Science/Nature
Missing DR Congo gorillas 'dead'
17 Aug 07 |  Science/Nature
Concern over gorilla 'executions'
26 Jul 07 |  Science/Nature


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