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Gorilla warfare
May 25, 2007 6:01 PM   Subscribe

A band of Congolese rebels is threatening to kill all of the Virunga mountain gorillas. Two-hundred Mai-Mai fighters attacked conservation posts in the violence-prone Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in response to government efforts to protect Virunga National Park from settling and poaching. Virunga is home to roughly half the world's 700 remaining mountain gorillas (and was the workplace of Diane Fossey). Last year, Mai-Mai fighters killed nearly half of the park's hippos, eating the meat and selling the teeth as ivory, and in January they killed and ate two silverbacks. The increased violence is part of a trend that has accompanied attempts to integrate the area's independent militias- mostly remnants of groups that fought in the Congo civil war, then refused to disband- into the national army, and some observers believe that the war, which already killed 4 million, may reignite.
posted by gsteff (55 comments total)

 
Jesus.

Famed for their looting and raping sprees

Not sure that's the modifier I'd have chosen.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:18 PM on May 25, 2007


Humans pretty much suck, don't they. Meteor spotted yet?
posted by maxwelton at 6:28 PM on May 25, 2007


Some mad scientist somewhere must be working on a virus that wipes out humanity. I hope they're successful soon.
posted by cmonkey at 6:30 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


gottabefunky: Agreed. One is feared or notorious for looting and raping.

One is famed for their delightful fudge or remarkable falsetto singing.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:32 PM on May 25, 2007


Not that I support these guys even slightly, but if you think about it, that's a pretty smart threat to make. If they just threatened to, say, massacre everyone in Kinshasa, the West would just shrug its shoulders and say, "well, more of them dumb Africans killin' each other," and throw a couple million more bucks at the issue hoping it goes away. Endangered species, thanks to the environmental movement, are Congo's most valuable natural resource (in PR terms), and this threatens Western ideals directly. If this were more widely publicized, the West would have to do everything in its power to ransom the gorillas--no one wants to be the politician who allowed the slaughter to happen.
posted by nasreddin at 6:33 PM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Brings new meaning to the term 'Eco-Terrorists'
posted by IronLizard at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Brilliant media strategy.
Looks like they've retained Grey and Co.
Seriously, if the response was to capture some of these asshats and put em in a cage with an angry silverback, wuld yo come to their defense?
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:45 PM on May 25, 2007


Seriously, if the response was to capture some of these asshats and put em in a cage with an angry silverback, wuld yo come to their defense?

What part of "I don't support these guys even slightly" did you not understand? That said, if the rest of them decide that that's a good excuse to carry out the threat, I would do everything I could to prevent that--even coming to their defense.
posted by nasreddin at 6:48 PM on May 25, 2007


Part of the reason this is worrisome is that the Virunga gorillas have become acclimated to tourism (I've read that the waiting list to see them is several years long), and allow themselves to be approached more readily.
posted by gsteff at 7:11 PM on May 25, 2007


Jesus, mary and joseph. A few years ago, a friend and I were discussing how the only way to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was to seal Israel off with a giant glass wall and make it a bird sanctuary: no humans allowed.

Sounds like we need last call in Congo: you folks don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

I know, I know: Africa is all sorts of fucked up because of colonialism, but man--that excuse is wearing thin right about now. Do not take your issues out on the wildlife, dammit.
posted by gsh at 7:27 PM on May 25, 2007



I know, I know: Africa is all sorts of fucked up because of colonialism, but man--that excuse is wearing thin right about now. Do not take your issues out on the wildlife, dammit.


Perfect example of what I was talking about. The dumb Africans can go on killing each other--who cares, right?--but if they start threatening our favorite cute cuddly animals, it's all "Do something! Seal them off! I don't want to see the results of the maldistribution of resources under our global capitalist system, just give my animals!"
posted by nasreddin at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2007


From a biodiversity standpoint, nasreddin, 700 gorillas are more important than four million humans. And, frankly, no gorilla ever did me any harm.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:28 PM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is a convergence of fucked-upness. Groups of people killing other groups of people is a pile of shit that has always been with us. Hunting a species, which has never threatened these people, which may possess the same level of self awareness as these thugs, to extinction, out of pure hatred is something different.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:39 PM on May 25, 2007


Africa is all sorts of fucked up because of colonialism

I'd point at garden-variety tribalism and thuggery before we start blaming the British, Belgians, etc. I don't see rebels in India threatening to kill all the tigers. And in that country, the tigers eat people.
posted by frogan at 8:39 PM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Chillied me to the bone, really disturbing, really disturbing
posted by MrMerlot at 8:45 PM on May 25, 2007


From a biodiversity standpoint, nasreddin, 700 gorillas are more important than four million humans.

Granted. We may differ on the broader significance of this, though.

The point isn't that the rebels are justified in killing the gorillas because they're oppressed or whatever. The point is that the threat to the gorillas plays off a very interesting dynamic for average Western media consumers: compassion fatigue, blinkeredness, racism, and entitlement combine to ensure that stories about human suffering in Africa are virtually ignored, while stories about animal suffering trigger a response based on other considerations which are more emotionally powerful for Westerners.

For what it's worth, biodiversity aside, I don't think that this dynamic reveals anything flattering about our culture.
posted by nasreddin at 8:49 PM on May 25, 2007


Hunting a species, which has never threatened these people, which may possess the same level of self awareness as these thugs, to extinction, out of pure hatred is something different.

Which is, in fact, how we clawed our way to the top to begin with. There were several competitors to the title of "human."

Maybe those gorillas are getting too smart for their own good.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on May 25, 2007


Hashimi is reported as saying: "When the Afghani head council asked them to provide the money to feed the children instead of fixing the statues, they refused and said, 'No, the money is just for the statues, not for the children'. Herein, they made the decision to destroy the statues"

nasreddin is right: this is smart.
Conservation and development come to loggerheads (npi) on a regular basis. This is ransoming off what we, in the west, consider most valuable there, while exposing, from the perspective of some, a degenerate moral perspective.

Expect to see more of this.
posted by dreamsign at 9:09 PM on May 25, 2007


Speaking as someone who has just finished work on framing hte problems of pressure on national parks and wildlife reserves [specifically the tiger], just take a moment to put aside the "primitive inhumanity" of hte congo gorilla killers and think about it from their PoV.

Thousands and thousands of dollars pour in to save the gorrilla or tiger or what have you. Humans living in these areas for eons are shunted aside summarily from their ancestral lands cos some white guy in his silk suit stands htere and says the animals must be saved.

but until alternate income sources and skills training for the dislocated population that surrounds the natural parks are established, what can they see beyond the obvious, which to paraphrase the quote in dreamsign's comment above would be the message " you don't matter, this statue/gorrilla/tiger does"

and then you ask who is inhuman to whom? just sayin...
posted by infini at 9:31 PM on May 25, 2007


I'd point at garden-variety tribalism and thuggery before we start blaming the British, Belgians, etc.

"Colonialism" may not be exactly the right word for what's going on in the DRC, but "tribalism" definitely doesn't cover it.
posted by stammer at 10:06 PM on May 25, 2007


Gorillas? Did they eat all the Pygmies already? Should we encourage cannibalism to spare the wildlife?
posted by davy at 10:20 PM on May 25, 2007


From a biodiversity standpoint, nasreddin, 700 gorillas are more important than four million humans.


This is a false choice; this is not a dichotomy.

Gorillas are important. But is every human life in that region. Four *fucking* million people?

.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:22 PM on May 25, 2007


Uh, that should be:

But so is every human life in that region
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 PM on May 25, 2007


Of course "enlightened" powers could stage or support a forcible relocation of the offending Mai-Mai. Doesn't Australia have a problem with non-native four-legged vermin they could nosh on?
posted by davy at 10:35 PM on May 25, 2007


I'll bet War Nerd is scribbling something about this right now.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 10:36 PM on May 25, 2007


Not every human life is sacred. Very few of us are worth our weight in fertilizer, and fewer still really contribute something. (The world could even survive the loss of me.)
posted by davy at 10:42 PM on May 25, 2007


yeah davy, but "Life" is sacred, we are but sparks but the infinite fire...
posted by infini at 10:47 PM on May 25, 2007


Not every human life is sacred.

I don't know...I just don't think nihilism is the solution to anything. It sounds cheesy, but a little more love (and that includes love of oneself, so davy *you* are important!) is all we need.

[Drinks seventh can of Old Milwaukee, starts to sob, punctuated with a massive sneeze]
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 PM on May 25, 2007


ooops that's "sparks of teh infinite fire" ... damn typo, broke a nail on the keyboard, meh
posted by infini at 11:00 PM on May 25, 2007


I CAN HAS TEH INFINITE FIRE?
posted by nasreddin at 11:17 PM on May 25, 2007


Soldiers kill enemy soldiers that threaten them. Terrorists, in their fucked up logic, still see their victims as representing a threat to their way of life.

I understand what people are saying about this as a strategy from the rebels' point of view, the hypocrisy of how the deaths of gorillas matter more than the deaths of African people but I maintain there is something purely psychopathic about this, and I am no vegan animal rights zealot. Reminds one of Colonel Kurtz:

And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we.

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:28 PM on May 25, 2007


It's not that nihilism is the answer, just that excessive sappiness isn't really helpful. There has to be a Golden Mean, y'know?

(You drank 7 cans of Old Milwaukee in one 24-hour period? No wonder you got tearful; that's not really beer.)
posted by davy at 11:32 PM on May 25, 2007


I CAN HAS TEH INFINITE FIRE?
posted by nasreddin


why yes mullah nasruddin, of course you may, do you not know you are one with life too? ;p
posted by infini at 11:49 PM on May 25, 2007


I am reminded for some reason of the old saying, that one mans terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Maybe it was my old grandma, who passed away at a grand old age in 2003? She marched as a freedom fighter against the British during the Quit India movement and thus received a pension from the grateful govt [as did they all] till her death. The British had jailed her along with her brothers and of course everyone else who had protested the Raj in India. Am I a terrorist's granddaughter? Or the proud descendant of nation builders?

History, they say, is written by the victors.
posted by infini at 11:53 PM on May 25, 2007


Meanwhile, back in Alabama a wild hog, bigger than Hogzilla, was shot an killed by an 11 year old kid.
posted by nickyskye at 12:06 AM on May 26, 2007


But did your grandmother slaughter a hippo or snack on silverbacks?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 AM on May 26, 2007


Can someone please write up this Hierarchy Of Outrage™?

I want to be sure that I've condemned the necessary things before I point out that these actions by the Mai-Mai are abhorrent.
posted by uri at 12:26 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's some more about coltan and Congo. It's funny - Belgium is still very much implicated in the fighting there. So is Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, the guy who is often portrayed as the hero of the genocide in books like We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. Although, to hear him tell it, it's nothing to do with resources because "the quality of our own coltan here from Rwanda is much better".
posted by stammer at 1:12 AM on May 26, 2007


But did your grandmother slaughter a hippo or snack on silverbacks?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 AM on May 26 [


dunno but most of my life she weighed in over 120kg or 250lbs at less than 5 feet tall... so ;p
posted by infini at 1:24 AM on May 26, 2007


If this happens, it will be a huge blow to global conservation efforts.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:20 AM on May 26, 2007


This is the same thing we were talking about in that extinction thread a few days back. Everyone gets upset when their favourite cute cuddly animals like gorillas are threatened, even though it really, really doesn't matter, both compared to the other bad things happening (like, uh, four million people dying) and the incredible diversity of species we have on Earth.

Out of all of our millions of species, people get incredibly stressed about a hundred of them, to the point of prioritising them over things that are manifestly more important.
posted by reklaw at 4:35 AM on May 26, 2007


This is a false choice; this is not a dichotomy.

I didn't imply a choice. Stating that one thing is more important than another thing doesn't imply that one of those things will or should be ignored.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:04 AM on May 26, 2007


Funny, 4 million people are killed in the DRC and nobody even seems to notice.

A few gorillas are threatened and Holy Dian Fossey, It's A Tragedy!

Fuck the gorillas. Fuck the humans too, mind you.
posted by Skeptic at 5:40 AM on May 26, 2007


You know, Skeptic... I think people did notice. I read about it, and the violence elsewhere in Africa (which is still ongoing) and screamed and hollered about it when we invaded Iraq instead of going down to try and put a stop to an actual genocide... not that I am not trying to suggest that we only went into Iraq so GWB's cronies could get rich, or anything.

WE CAN STILL HELP the refugees in Darfur.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:40 AM on May 26, 2007


It's funny - Belgium is still very much implicated in the fighting there. So is Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, the guy who is often portrayed as the hero of the genocide in books like We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families.

Indeed. But the latter parts of the book make it pretty clear that basically everyone expected more fighting, and the super-confident, very non-PC attitude Kagame is portrayed with fits very much with his actions in the second Congo civil war. I partly suspect that Kagame wanted that war to happen because he just loves commanding armies.

but until alternate income sources and skills training for the dislocated population that surrounds the natural parks are established, what can they see beyond the obvious, which to paraphrase the quote in dreamsign's comment above would be the message " you don't matter, this statue/gorrilla/tiger does"

and then you ask who is inhuman to whom? just sayin...


Yikes, infini, that was a great post. This one almost feels redundant. Its sad that it would be very, very easy for any developed nation, or even modestly large philanthropy, to pay for the readjustment of all 10,000 or so of the Virunga squatters, as happened in your tiger example. And, for that matter, to pay for the "readjustment" of the Mai-Mai fighters, and the fighters under Laurent Kabila in the area, bribing them to disarm, disperse and move to the cities. But while its ok for their own government to buy them off, as in India, its a no-no for outside organizations to pay off citizens of a foreign country to change policy, even with the cooperation of their govt.

As with many global environmental issues, the interests of the planet on this issue are contrary to the interests of the local government. I'm impressed that the the DRC government has been willing to protect Virunga at all (the tourism revenue doesn't appear to be all that large); fortunately, Virunga is a national institution, created in the 1920s (by the Belgians, evidently, no less surprisingly). As with most environmental issues, the interests of the world are being implicated by the actions of a poor, developing nation... the long term solution has to involve payment from us to support this cause, not just in the idealistic liberal sense, but in the hardass economic analysis sense.
posted by gsteff at 7:11 AM on May 26, 2007


Why is anybody upset? As today's cell phone cam hijinks thread shows even their "endangered" status is clearly the gorilla's own damn fault for failing to set proper boundaries. They should know better than to be made of meat and wearing fur around those poor benighted "rebels"!
posted by davy at 9:44 AM on May 26, 2007


Oh by the way, there's a Belgian consulate here in Louisville, KY, about a mile from here. What should my protest sign say?
posted by davy at 9:47 AM on May 26, 2007


Saisir de frites?
posted by infini at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2007


"What should my protest sign say?"

Besides of course 'Hi, I'm from www.MetaFilter.com and...!'
posted by davy at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2007


"Saisir de frites"

Et pas les poissons?
posted by davy at 10:48 AM on May 26, 2007


Hey, I was 11 when I made that mistake and just starting to learn. But it made the whole class laugh :P
posted by infini at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2007


What mistake? If you mean my French usage, I blame translate.google.com -- French is one of the dozens of "major" languages I'm totally illiterate in.
posted by davy at 11:22 AM on May 26, 2007


I'm just wondering where the hell Roland is when all this is going on.
posted by djfiander at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2007


In a lot of ways, these rebels are simply terrorizing their own countrymen.

Let's face it, the gorillas are the only reason a lot of people even know about the Congo. By killing rare animals, these rebels are threatening to destroy their country's tourism trade. Even worse, "cute animals" are often used to get people to donate to environmental causes that help the whole environment. No more cute animals means less donations to environmental organizations.

So, basically, the rebels are trying to give people less of a reason to care about the Congo. Way to lift up the oppressed.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:01 PM on May 26, 2007


I do wonder who their strategist is...
posted by infini at 11:38 PM on May 26, 2007


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