Did you hear about this? It happened last year in Virunga National Park in the Congo - six mountain gorillas (seven if you count the pregnant one) were murdered execution style in the Congo, to make a political point. One year later now, the reasons for the killings are being explored on a special for the National Geographic Channel, NPR's Fresh Air, and PBS Charlie Rose. [Incidentally, the photojournalist who took the initial pictures and has become the face of the story here, is a sexy, swashbuckling South African guy named Brent Stirton].
[NOTE: Please do not take my word for this. Facts probably not exactly right and this is an infinitely complicated story of power and politics in a region I don't have any pretense of understanding]
Part of the trouble begins with the Rwandan genocide, as Hutu militia groups fled Rwanda for Congo and the Virunga park. Now, apparently, some of these Hutu guys run an illegal charcoal operation, in league with certain corrupt members of the Congolese army and the guy who runs Virunga National Park. Charcoal is a crucial to cooking and heating in the region. When certain Park Rangers caught wind of the goings on and objected, the gorilla executions were a message sent to prospective do-gooders.
The silverback here is Senkwekwe.
Now these are some truly arresting images. I certainly don't want to make light of them - animal cruelty is offensive to us all, but isn't the anthropomorphic quality of these another turn of the screw? You may know that the one true love of my life to this point is Koko, the gorilla who knows sign language (pictured in my gallery right and also here, with pet kitten Smokey): The PBS documentary about Koko is available from the Criterion collection and her paintings, along with buddy Michael's are available here:http://www.koko.org/friends/kokomart_art.koko.html#
- Attempts were made for Koko to select a mate via videos of potential suitors. She declined Michael because they grew up together.
- Some of Koko's female handlers filed sexual harassment suits due to Koko's constant requests to see people's nipples
- Koko was a fan of Mr. Rogers and when she met him in person, she immediately tried to take off his shoes, as she'd seen him do so many times.