Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Monday, 10 September 2007 10:05 UK

Conservation alone 'is not enough'

Richard Leakey (Image: WildlfeDirect)
VIEWPOINT
Richard Leakey

Ahead of Wednesday's publication of the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, Dr Richard Leakey argues that conservation alone cannot save threatened species such as the mountain gorilla. In this week's Green Room, he calls for action on humans' needs as well.

Rangers standing next to the four dead gorillas (Image: Altor IGCP Goma)
These deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers
Millions of people were horrified by the recent slaughter of mountain gorillas that dominated headlines for the inhumanity that seems to cling to this corner of the world.

In the space of a month, nine gorillas - more than 1% of the known population of these charismatic relatives of ours - were wiped out. All were from the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Virunga National Park.

Predictably, the slaughter drew an outraged response. Wildlife conservation organisations leapt into action and began raising funds to deal with it, and a crisis team went in on the ground.

In the following four weeks, peoples' compulsion to do something to save the species produced donations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.

Living at the epicentre of the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, the mountain gorillas share their habitat with heavily armed militia.

In other lawless regions, where wild meat comes into contact with hungry gunmen, species are slaughtered for food, or for trophies to be traded for cash and weapons.

But these deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers.

On the contrary, it is the very presence of mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park that threatens them, for the animals draw attention to an area that unscrupulous people would rather have us forget.

Fuelling conflicts

At the heart of the crisis is charcoal - the main form of household energy in Africa. And making charcoal means felling forests, destroying wildlife habitats, damaging ecosystem services such as water catchments and soil fertility.

Gorilla protection rangers (Image: WildlifeDirect)
Wildlife protection rangers earn just $5 a month for risking their lives

Charcoal production has been going on for millennia, but recent events in eastern DRC have led to a sharp escalation in demand.

In neighbouring Rwanda, an enormous human population has stripped almost all its indigenous forests bare; while in the Congolese border town of Goma, refugees fleeing the region's crises have swelled the population to more than half a million.

Together, they've created an insatiable demand for charcoal worth an estimated $30m (£15m) a year.

To save Rwanda's few remaining forests and the gorillas that have become a major source of tourist revenue, President Paul Kagame has installed a surprisingly efficient and effective ban on charcoal production.

Ironically, however, that has driven the black industry across the border into DRC, threatening the habitats of the very same gorillas in the park which straddles both countries.

Given the lack of any form of effective government in eastern Congo, and the ludicrously small government salaries - a ranger earns about $5 (£2.50) per month - it is not surprising that the parks' forests have become a commons and virtually everybody is involved in the scramble for resources, from peasants to high ranking government officials and rebel militia.

If gorillas focus unwelcome global attention on the park, it is hardly surprising that those getting rich on charcoal will want to remove that attention by getting rid of one of our closest biological relatives.

As shocking as the gorilla executions were, this is fundamentally a human tragedy, with very human solutions.

There must be alternative sources of energy to meet the demand in both Rwanda and eastern Congo. There must be a return to the rule of law in DRC, where the forests are saved for the long term good of all, rather than looted for the short term riches of a few.

In it together

Although it seems to be a very local problem, we all have an interest in protecting the forests.

Library image of a rainforest (Image; BBC)
It will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods

Not only do we risk losing one of the most charismatic and important species on Earth, but we are in danger of doing more damage to the world's warming climate.

In that respect, the forests' destruction is a double whammy. Burning charcoal is one of the greatest sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but it also strips away the trees that otherwise soak up so much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

While the alarm has been raised by conservation organisations concerned about gorillas, and the global public has responded, it is clear that the problem is much greater than one of conservation alone.

This is a human development crisis and it will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods for the population living in eastern Kivu.

If the underlying demand for charcoal is ignored and we focus too much on the gorillas alone, we will not only see the extermination of the mountain gorillas, but the forests, woodlands and all the unique species that inhabit this biologically diverse landscape.

We will also lose the climate mitigation services that the intact forests provide. In the end, we could see a human crisis that will dwarf the tragedy of nine gorillas.

Dr Richard Leakey is the founding chairman of WildlifeDirect, a former head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and a leading palaeontologist

The Green Room is a series of opinion pieces on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website


Do you agree with Dr Richard Leakey? Are we asking too much of conservation organisations? Is the global media's attention helping or hindering the gorillas' plight? Or should we accept that endangered species caught up in conflict zones are just one of many casualties of war?

I agree with Dr. Richard Leaky, conservation alone is not enough. In the face of poverty where individuals are barely surviving in countries with corrupted politicians, poor economies, lack of job prospects, there is no excuse to destroy the ecological balance we co-exist with. It is the human duty, through intelligent solutions to prevent environmental degradation. We cannot and should not accept that these mountain gorillas are caught up in 'conflict zones' and their deaths are attributed to casualty of war. It is their space!
Dr. Ekta Patel, Nairobi, KENYA

The simplest solution is to pay lots more rangers. Say $50 per month, $5M would give you 8000 rangers for a year. Not a lot to save a cousin species.
g bruno, wellington nz

I agree with Dr Leakey. We all must persevere on protecting wild forests and such a charismatic species. I ahve seen the gorilas and I can asure it has been the best oportunity I have ever had in my life. I was veru very shocked to see the dead gorillas on the photo! PLease help the African people to stop this, MAria Patagonia, Argentina
MAria Abud, PAtagonia, Chile

It's high time for wildlife conservationists and philanthropists to purchase and relocate endangered species to safer havens. Too many of their native homelands are rife with war, strife and irreverence for animal life.
Brien Comerford, Glenview, Illinois United States

The loss of the Mountain Gorilla is to be regretted along with the Dodo and several near extinct big cats, birds, fishes, penguins, giant tortosies, whales etc. But in order for Man to completely evolve at the present and apparently unstoppable rate, just about all of the non-human life-forms on our bio-sphere must inevitabily disappear, the earth's surface be covered in concrete and asphalt the seas polluted until their salt is too dirty for it to be possible to economically extract, the air so filled with chemicals and radio-active waste for us to be unable to breathe it without special apparatus. Nobody has a big enough stick to halt the process and it seems to be inevitable that it will continue until life here becomes untennable for the poor.
David Chester! , Petcah-Tikva, Israel

The fundamental question is what can replace the charcoal? If the oil found in LAke Albert is just part of something bigger, would it actually solve the problem? Nigeria is not a particularly enticing example.
John Brown, Knutsford

I think that we should focus on taking care of the people of the world. Areas such as Darfur, Iraq, and many others. People need to realize that these are animals, there are humans that can't eat or seek medical attention because it isn't available. Why waste your money or time for something that can't contribute to society.
Travis Marsik, Greencastle, USA

Dr. Leakey has made a cogent argument that makes it clear why conservationists often fail to make headway in their efforts to save endangered species. Without the sympathy of local residents, without addressing their needs and aspirations, no amount of outside intervention will reverse the destruction of habitats and the living things that inhabit them.
Victor Radujko, Ottawa, Canada

If only people like Attenborough and Leakey were in power instead of the bunch of thieves, despots and misinformed idiots that are in power in Africa and the world in general. History will prove Leakey and Attenborough correct, if there is going to be any History written after the environmental bottle neck approaching.
Robert Menage, Aberdeen UK

At last an article that highlights one of the REAL environmental problems that we face - far too many of us, and far too aggressive - it holds very little hope for our future.
Crowcatcher, Shropshire

When I was student in South Africa about a decade ago, the strong Cape Town winter winds and currents sometimes created havoc for migrating penguins and sometimes swept them ashore. Interested parties (mainly white people) used to go in droves to the shores to clean them up and get them back to the water. However many (black) people in the townships used to be rendered homeless by this same winds as they blew over their shacks, but they could never compete with the penguins in terms of media attention, outpouring of donations and a helping hand to rebuild their homes. Dr. Leakey is right, when you take care of the human factor, you basically have solved 90% of the problem.
Wanjiku Mwangi, Nairobi, Kenya

I have worked in conservation for over 25 years in DR Congo, including the Kivu area. I agree with Richard Leakey's analysis. I would only add that development of real alternatives to charcoal will require investments in hydroelectric installations (eastern Congo has major potential for this, and this is significant for neighboring East Africa as well) and possibly natural gas (reportedly present under Lake Kivu). Unfortunately, neither the gorillas nor the Virunga Volcanoes can wait until hydro electric and gas are in place. Even optimistically this is years away. The park and its gorillas must be must be protected today and they will also have to be protected tomorrow, even after the open conflict recedes, and the headlines focus elsewhere.
Dr John A. Hart, Kinshasa, DRC.

First, Dr. Leaky is inadvertently confusing 'commons'with 'opens'. The situation he describes-"virtually everbody is involved in the scramble for resources" characterizes an open access situation. Commons are resources managed in common by a group. Coming to the question, whether we are asking too much of conservation organizations, it is actually the other way around. Conservationist often ignore the kind of issues that Dr Leaky alludes here. Poverty, rule of law, and most importantly, livelihood needs of the communities that generate the demands for charcoal. For many other wildlife products - such as ivory, rhino horns, tiger skins etc., demand is generated by the wealthy people. SO, poor people are not always at blame.
Prakash Kashwan, Bloomingotn, Indiana - USA

My best wishes for all your efforts, I am myself involved with charitable work and events, but more often than not question what it's all about in the end. Somehow the decent portion of our society keeps going, but why the maniacs always end up in power is beyond me. As a thinking person, I am deeply ashamed to part of the human species and incapable of stopping the madness I see all around me at all levels.
Hans Schreuder, Ipswich, UK

I wish that it were not so but we may have to bring them back from their DNA in the future.
Ronald Newland, Austin, Texas, USA

With world human population increasing and spreading like a plague of parasites there is not much hope for the natural world,fast vanishing.The only way to stop the wiping out of our natural world is to put restrictions on people popping out children like there is no tomorrow.
Richard Browne, Exeter.Devon

The "heart" of the matter is human overpopulation. Kenya had 1 million people in 1900. It now has 35 million. Still the number of births per woman is about 6. It is probable that it will fall into massive intertribal civil war by 2025. You cannot economically outgrow lack of water, fuel and land which is the the answer of economists and politicians. But first people will eat everything, cut everything, mine the soil of any value and always blame someone else. No one seems to notice that the only country to really cut its population growth rate has the highest sustained economic growth rate in the world. China.
Peter Hubbell, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

Leakey's theory is interesting, but not watertight. I don't understand why the gorillas were killed in the first place; if it was to eliminate global attention, it clearly didn't work well (as evidenced by the numerous worldwide publications denouncing the slaughter). Nevertheless, this is a situation that needs to be changed, and conservation organizations can't do it alone. Maybe rather than starting wars, the U.S. government could spend that $450 billion to aid Rwanda and the DRC...
Spencer Harjung, Elkton, Maryland, United States

I believe that we should be focusing on resolving the human conflict and the DRC's and Rwandan people's constant threat of the guerilla militia, rather than just focusing on the habitat and ecosystem issues. It seems like the rest of the world chooses to be apalled by the death of a beetle who wandered onto the nest of ants, rather than say a word about the thousands of ants crawling and attacking at their feet. The deaths of the gorillas are tragic, yes, but we should definitely be aware of the whole picture.
Drew, Eustis, USA

Dr. Leakey's analysis of the situation is accurate, if a touch incomplete. The sad truth remains that perennially impoverished nations such as Rwanda and the DRC will inevitably find themselves mired in the blood of innocents as the politically and militarily savvy few duke it out for increasingly limited resources. The symptom at this moment may appear to be charcoal, but the cause runs far deeper, and the treatment is still, as of yet, unknown. Pray for the inhabitants of this troubled land, human and otherwise.
Andrew, Bronx, United States

It isn't charcoal. It is overpopulation and there isn't a politician alive who has the guts to tackle that problem. The idea that death and endangerment are "just one of many casualties of war" may be brilliant in the rarefied air of politics and media, but I think most of those people are dumber than dirt anyway. The long-term solution is human contraception. Between the do-gooders, religion, the bleeding hearts and the political cowards, any money spent now on the gorillas might as well be burned. Wolves don't even breed when there isn't enough food. Humans get over yourselves. Get over the idea that Earth was made entirely for you consumption and destruction. Until we discard that ideology and religion's imperative to breed, we might as well accept the consequences - the inexorable move to destruction of all animals, including Homo sap, through starvation and war.
Marthalynne Webb, Rogue River, Oregon, USA

In my college days, I would grow colonies of tiny creatures in a petri dish. They thrived in the beginning when the nutrients in the dish were enough to sustain the life of the colony, then when the population reached a certain size, it was overwhelmed by its own waste. It died. It seems now that we are on the petri dish of Earth and our population is reaching the limits for Earth to sustain us.
Deanna Dana, Las Vegas NV USA

As a person who worked at Rockefeller University in research to produce the first birth control pill, Enovid, it's clear to me the problem continues to be overpopulation. Clearly, the Gorillas have no choices, and the population's need for the basics to support their lives unavailable. In my opinion, we should have as many breeding pairs of Gorillas in natural setting parks outside of Africa as possible. It doesn't seem realistic for us to expect them to survive any other way.
Jacquie Schmall, Sausalito, CA

The only way that you can save the mountain gorilla is to remove them to a safer location. The gorilla does not care where it is as long as it has enough to eat. Chimps are saved like this all the time. Then sometime in the future they might be taken back if these wars ever end. Because if you do not do this you will lose them all.
Barbara Griffith, Auburn, Washington USA

The populace south of the Sahara has been and forever will be a drain on the productive regions of the world. This area has the resources to alter their status in life but ignorance and greed has held back progress while the rest of the world developed. The only thing in my perspective worth saving in Africa are the animals.
R. Miller, USA

If we humans continue on this ultra-consumer based society we will kill ourselves off this century and even worse still is the fact that if we become a species that not only genocides but now xenocides and kills off entire species of sentient creatures (dolphins, whales, gorillas, bonobos which are all being driven towards extinction) then we are the indeed the worst form of life in the universe for we are capable of destroying entire peaceful sentient species for our own personal gain :_(. Obviously it is not everyone doing this directly many indigenous peoples across the earth have taught respect for the environment and our 'mother' earth. We must remember the calls of peoples like Chief Sitting Bull and CHANGE NOW! Peace, Love, and Evolution (lest we become the most despicable species in the universe) Sequoia
Sequoia Sempervirens, Arcata, California, usa

I agree with Dr Richard Leakey. I also think there should be a concerted effort to transfer technology to Africa and make sure that the energy needs of people are met by solar. After all Africa is a continent with the abundance of sunshine and if the energy needs were solved by other means, the charcoal production would stop making sense. In the process forests, gorillas and other animals would be saved.
Beata, Ottawa, Canada

By not acting strongly enough, our governments hinder all organizations' ability to 1. protect all species,in this case the gorillas of the DRC, 2. end conflict, 3.give aid. We cannot accept that gorillas are casualties of war when they are specifically hunted and murdered for no reason. They cannot be considered collateral damage.
Lucy DeLancey, Tampico, Mexico

When will the people of Africa begin taking responsibility for the violence they perpetrate on themselves and how they affect the world? If Africa is set upon destroying itself through war, corrupt government, AIDS, and abandoning its own children via the above - then we, in the rest of the world, have a right to protect children and endangered species from them. For too long, Africa has been viewed as a helpless victim unable to help itself. If they cannot or will not save their own dying continent, then they cannot expect the rest of the world to idly sit back and watch while they destroy the last of a species.
Ellen Leeper, Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Most suffering is caused by people having children that they cannot feed let alone educate. The world's population is growing by one billion a year. We need to make contraception and abortion readily available and encourage planned pregnancies. When the population grows beyond the resources necessary to support it, it will eventually collapse in famine and hardship. As the population of Easter island grew the eco systems were destroyed, and a once forested island denuded. There was eventually not one tree standing.
Amanda Youngleson, Cape Town

Whilst so much money is being raised, why are the rangers being paid just $5 per day? Where is the money going? Africa is corrupt and always has been, but it is important to see these questions answered.
Rob Ellingworth, London

As much as agree with Dr Leaky that we should protect the mountain gorillas I don't agree with him equating the animals to humans that they are our relatives
Ernest Larbi, Tema Ghana

I've been watching this degradation of wood biomass in Tanzania for 27 years. World oil prices will continue to raise putting alternatives such as kerosene out of reach of most people. TANESCO, our State Power com. has just requested a price rise for electricity of 40%. 20 years ago the World Bank had a multi-million rehabilitation project with TANESCO which included a charcoal from waste project. When the budget was squeezed guess what went first. 1st world just to busy enjoying life and of course playing at war esp where they want influence over minerals inc oil. The DRC does not manufacture guns and bullets and the number of actual bad guys is really quite small. Still, as long as it's not in "your" back yard eh !!
Neil Baker, Iringa Tanzania

This is an extraordinary situation. I would support a world action (UN-sponsored??) to permanently take these mountains away from the CONGO and RWANDA and establish a heavily defended international research preserve. The people in this area have demonstrated that they are far too irresponsible to possess such a precious resource. My political leaning is democratic, liberal, and humanitarian, but the Congolese and Rwandans have demonstrated over and over that they are unable to care for the mountain gorillas. I have no doubt that the funds could be raised to take this portion of their territory away, pacify it, defend its border, and establish a permanent international preserve.
Dr. Kraig Derstler, New Orleans, LA, USA

There is clearly blame to be laid at the feet of Western governments, Multi-nationals and consumers. We allow the plundering of ecosystems so we can have ipods, laptops and cellphones but then are outraged that mountain gorillas are being slaughtered. The time has come for consumers in the west (a growing number of whom are self-labelled environmentalists) to challenge the rights of the corporations whose goods they purchase.
Adam Chimienti, Astoria, NY USA

Bravo, I couldn't agree more. Dr. Leakey has perfectly explained the crux of the greatest environmental issues. Fixing human problems such as greed and over consumption and inefficient technology are the best way to insure the continuation of all life on the planet.
Mark Larson, Mass City, USA

Events in the Middle East tend to hog our attention and resources. In the meantime, other areas of the world with huge problems, like the Republic of Congo and Darfur, go a'begging.
Joe Blanda, Austin, TX - USA

I am truly baffled by these recurring stories of conservation and militias and poverty. it seems pretty clear: humans are responsible for everything they do. the Western countries manufacture the guns and ammunitions, and sustain local conflicts to better exploit the resources of a given area. the poor Gorillas are simply a by-product of that process. playing boy-scouts with the notion of conservation is as useless as trying to cure lung cancer in children without removing their smoking parents.
Lio Spiegler, brooklyn/NY

I agree with everything Dr Richard Leakey has said. I am from Africa and can honestly say that when people are in so much poverty they don't care or think about animals and the environment - or each other at all. When you are hungry and threatened with violence (Real war) you only care about surviving. In Africa the only way to save wildlife and the environment is to include the people, to solve their problems as best you can. If you don't help them you cannot save anything.
Lucille Hart, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

The question to ask is this: who is exporting guns to Congo? And when we answer this question, we ask that country to stop their exportations of weapons. If that country does not stop, all countries should embargo that country. The arms exports would stop in a heartbeat. In fact, there should be international laws already in place that make it illegal for any country to sell weapons to another.
Julian Vigo, Montreal, Canada

Wildlife and the forests are a part of nature's harmony on the planet. Every living organism has a purpose. We all depend on each other for our daily needs. The human race has a legal, social and moral resonsibility in protecting culture and the lives of animals on our planet. Governments as elected leaders must take a proactive role.
Thaddeus Loo, Singapore

Many of the conservation organisations are good at soliciting funds, not at actually doing the right thing with them. Human development and war are the enemies here, not poachers. Unless food, water, shelter, disease, jobs, overpopulation and justice issues are addressed, poaching, terrorism and wars will continue to escalate - hardly the purview of conservation organisations.
Jose K., Sacramento, California USA

I completely agree with Dr. Leakey. I am a passionate wildlife photographer and have travelled to a number of wilderness areas in Africa and India. The common theme in all these places is that the push of population is bringing people closer in to contact with wildlife. It is no use to just focus on conserving the wildlife. One needs to put as much emphasis on improving the lot of these poor communities that simply cannot understand why the life of a wild animal in their area is so important to the rest of the world.
Vijai, Muscat, Oman

I agree with Dr Leakey entirely that this is a human issue, not simply a conservation issue. The land is capable of sustaining a fixed number of humans, traditionally based on a nomadic culture. These nomadic peoples now live in cities, and population has rocketed over recent times. The land, which is marginal in terms of agricultural potential, simply cannot sustain the populations now living there. The population rise is partly fuelled by better (although still not ideal) healthcare, but also by the presence of islam and catholicism, both of which encourage the spread of faith by increasing their populations. Until we accept that there is an upper limit to the number of humans that an area can sustain, we cannot begin to improve the situation there. As for solutions...I'm all out of magic wands
Piush, Bingley

I think this is totally repulsive and tragically unstoppable. If there is no political will to stop global plundering of fish stocks what hope for a few gorillas?
michael beaumont, Riguepeu, France

Nothing can be done to help the wildlife of the world. Humans are a destructive vindictive and greedy species. There are far too many humans on the planet and yet the call comes to save them when natural disasters impact. I for one spend my charity money on education in the hope that the ill educated continue to learn and stop breeding.
Paul, hull

I agree in principal with Dr Leakey. We have a similar problem in Zambia with charcoal production which for many people who make charcoal is the only method of acquiring cash to purchase food and day to day goods. What are the potential and affordable sources of alternative fuel which can be made available to the people of these countries? What are the alternative livelihoods and who can help govt.'implement' them ? until these questions can be answered then gorillas will continue to die...
simon bicknell, Lusaka, Zambia

Dr Leakey is absolutely correct. the only way to conserve an area or species is to make those who live in those areas affected want to, and if they have other more pressing things to worry about, such as getting enough to eat or live by then the overall state of the landscape around them is unlikely to be of concern. Don't forget that the UK was covered by forest until quite recently in planetary term, then we moved in and used the forests for cooking, ship building, etc. Let him that is without sin cast the first stone...
Darren Hughes, March, UK

Dr Leakey is right. Conservation without local community involvement does not work. Charcoal production is the catalyst for vast environmental damage. Here in the West Indies where charcoal production has stopped/been controlled, forests have rebounded. NO, endangered species are not collateral damage and YES we need to continue working to save them. But the root, seemingly intractable, issue is human population growth.
Karl Watson, Barbados

'Environmental crisis' is a misnomer; *we* are the crisis, over-exploiting our own habitat. If or when we disappear, life will restore its own balance. Hence, it's a problem of self-management, as Richard says. A suggestion: ask individuals to sponsor (i.e. employ) *named* park rangers/ development educators? I'd do it now if I knew how.
Brian McTavish, Edinburgh

First we hear about the slaughter of thousands of elephants, then came the rhinos, followed by Greveys zebra and hunters hartebeste. Now the cheetahs are disappearing and today the mountain gorillas are in the rifle sights. Tomorrow we will read about the next species in the line of fire and ALL of the above species will be forgotten as we mourn the latest victims. Richard Leakey and a few like him are valiantly fighting a losing battle for consevation because most of the people who are in a position to do something simply turn the page and see what else is in the news today.
richard Palmer, essen. Germany

The problem is growth. We have based our economy, and maybe our entire modern civilisation form, on a very wrong premise: growth, constant growth. And we cannot keep it that way. Of course new forms of energy can be investigated, and I do support this research, but if we want to put a definite end to the global problem, there's only one solution: stop population growth. Now. And of course develop a new economic system not based on growth. If we keep ourselves under a reasonable number, we can and will have a peaceful coexistence with the rest of lifeforms on Earth, including the wonderful mountain gorillas.
Violeta Grącia, Sabadell, Catalonia

Conflict zones, esp. in Africa, have witnessed the worst crimes, both on humans and other species. These wars are now ecological wars. A lot of wars in Africa are for basic human rights which are as much a part of ecological concerns as is the welfare of animals and environment. These are wars for water, for sustenance, for dignity, for independence - the same concepts that the animals in the forests fight for. These are wars for a safe environment, of which both humans and animals form a part of. Thank you Dr. Richard, for your views.
Karuna, Bombay

At last, a nuanced view of conservation. it seems that many well meaning people would like endangered animals to live in some sort of hermetically sealed human free zone. the fact is that the habitats that house some of the planet's most endangered species are also home to millions of humans, and any serious attempt to preserve biodiversity must surely focus on finding a way for these millions to live side by side with other species, not fondly imagining places where humans just don't live.
William, United Kingdom

I was so upset to see the picture of the Gorillas that had been slaughtered by wicked people. The local people need to be helped to live without destroying the forests. Alternatives must be found for them. The fighting must be stopped between these people. They must learn to compromise and live together in peace and harmony. And the killing of the wildlife and the Gorillas must be stopped. It's not rocket science - can't these people see the damage they are doing to the animals, forests, each other and the planet? We are all born with the same intelligence. Is it so difficult for these people to follow a humane, considerate way of life?
Ann Webster, Stanford le Hope, Essex, England

Until governments around the world really start to look a the long term African situation with regards to poverty and corruption there is no doubt in my mind the ruthless murder of the gorillas (and many other species caught up in the bush meat and ivory trade) will continue until extinction of the species.
Julian Carnall, Kilifi, Kenya

I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of people have already been killed in that war ,but I would suggest that the human tragedy has already somewhat outweighed the "tragedy" of the loss of nine gorillas!
villamarce, Bristol



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