It was Reported by Mark Jenkins, Gorillas VS Guerrillas, Natural Geographic Adventure, March 2009 that there were 720 (give or take) live wild mountain gorillas left on this earth. Today October 2017 The World Wildlife Organization reports 880 alive in Virunga National Park and across the border in Uganda and Rwanda.
In 2009 ten gorillas were killed in Virunga and Mark Jenkins went to investigate and report live for National Geographic. At that time the park was besieged in war by rebel guerrillas who were killing each other and butchering elephants to survive on. This war traces back to 1994 and the Rwanda genocide where more than 800,000 Tutsis were brutally mutilated and killed by Hutu warriors. During the 10 year period from 1999-2009 120 park rangers were killed caught in the crossfire of not only rebel warriors but also poachers. This was the largest loss of rangers ever reported by a national park in the world.
A faction headed up by Laurent Nkunda held the area of the park where the gorillas lived making it impossible to protect them or keep accurate records. Park director and Belgian anthropologist Emmanuel DeMerode negotiated with Nknda and regained access to this area.The progress with the gorillas numbers has been made as a direct result of “Wildlife Direct” a program put together by Emmanuel DeMerode and conservationist Richard Leakey.
DeMerode is a hero not only for the gorillas but for the forest land and the people. Over 2 1/2 million people lived in the area all cutting trees for fuel. DeMerode put 30,000 people to work making charcoal briquettes out of grass and dead leaves saving trees and bringing an economic boost to the area. One man with a brave heart, determination and a dream to improve the situation in a war torn land made this caliber of impact. What could be accomplished if we joined together in a common effort to educate ourselves, negotiate in war, save the animals and the planet while providing jobs for a nation in need? He is living proof that the possibilities are limitless.