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Gorillas and the Myths

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In January of 2007, OpEdNews was the only place in the world that printed rebel leader Laurent Nkunda’s denial of involvement in the slaughter of gorillas in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Conservation organizations were falling all over themselves, pointing a collective finger at Nkunda, and we were criticized for allowing him to speak.


Several weeks later in Goma, DRC, we sat at a table with Robert Muir of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and Robert Poppe, our logistics contact, as they clearly discussed that they “had Nkunda where they wanted him.” And where was that, exactly? What in the world are British “conservationists” doing meddling in regional politics?

Now, it is the local Mai Mai who are in the cross-hairs of conservation organizations’ press releases. Consider recent mis-information that is being propagated by the mainstream press with absolutely no vetting whatsoever. The following “facts” were gleaned from press releases supplied by WildLifeDirect, the Gorilla Organization (Formerly DFGF-E) and interviews with press offers from Conservation Groups.

From Reuters to the BBC to the Voice of America to obscure gorilla discussion forums, the lead paragraph from the latest gorilla story, datelined Kinshasa, May 21, 2007, read EXACTLY the same in every venue: “Congolese militia are threatening to slaughter rare mountain gorillas in Congo’s Virunga National Park after they raided the eastern reserve at the weekend, killing a wildlife officer, officials said.”

“The attackers have threatened to kill the gorillas if the rangers retaliate and once again this gorilla population’s future is threatened,” reads the report from the Gorilla Organization.”

The mis-information gets worse.

“About 200 of the Mayi-Mayi fighters who remain active after Congo's ruinous 1998-2002 civil war attacked three posts Sunday in Virunga National Park, Wildlife Direct said in a statement. One ranger died and three were injured in the attack, said the group, which is active in the area,” writes a stringer from Nigeria, whose story was picked up by the AP.

The truth is buried on an obscure blog supported by WildLifeDirect. It is purportedly written by a ranger from the Advance Ranger Force (a conservation militia funded by WildLifeDirect), but we were told while in DRC that these blogs are not written by the rangers at all, but by a press officer. If the press officers for these organizations know the truth of the matter, where are the corrections?


Was it the “savage” Mai Mai? Hardly.

According to them, they are not part of the Mai-Mai group but revolutionists reclaiming the rights of the population. Upon entry of the Sub-Station, they were dressed in civilian clothes and armed. The group consisted of mostly youths between 14 and 22 years of age, as well as 2 adults aged between 30 and 40,” reads the official report from the Advance Ranger Force.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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