On the Frontlines
March 12, 2008 8:12pm
Two Dead in Congo
This new business poses moral dilemmas on many levels: should tourists pay guerrillas for a service the park rangers are mandated to provide and in doing so, helping support the rebel movement? The funds, though, probably will increase the gorillas' chances for survival...even as they help fill the rebels' coffers for more fighting. There's some good news from near the war zone: Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to work together, to protect their respective gorilla populations and their habitat. It's a 10-year plan, costing about $4 million for the first four -- a comparatively tiny amount. Sadly, that's probably not even a patch on the profits from the charcoal trade.
While Kenya's political crisis drove away most tourists from the country's array of wildlife reserves, the animals did, according to some accounts, enjoy the respite from human activity -- noticeably relaxing. But past conflicts haven't been so kind to neighboring Tanzania's animals. A new report suggests that refugees, many of whom have been stuck in Tanzania for years, are hunting and eating wild animals, including chimpanzees, at least in part because the World Food Program (WFP) only provides vegetarian meals. "Bush meat" is in demand. The refugees call it "night time spinach" and it's illegal.
Another war-related dilemma: should the WFP provide meat to refugees? The agency itself notes the higher costs and the fact that meat spoils more easily than beans or starches. Would meat rations reduce the demand for bush meat or perhaps create other, unanticipated markets for it? Could access to meat be considered a human right? (One animal for another.) Doubtful. What I found most astonishing is this: some of the refugees in Tanzania fled Congo (then Zaire) and Burundi decades ago and are still stranded; others left Rwanda during the genocide. More evidence, if any was needed, of war's long, broad reach. Read more here on Congo's mountain gorillas, from the rangers working to protect them (updated just about every day).