Seven things about gorillas and Africa

Why write about gorillas and Africa?

Because there is an alarm about

Gorillas in the midst of Congo conflict


One ~  Tourists will generally shy away from unstable regions but this is not the case when it comes to regions with gorillas so I was wondering about touristic ideas of Africa and its gorillas. Why? An entry ticket to Virunga National Park in the DRC is $500. In 2006, the DRC earned $36 million from tourism. Say every tourist visited Virunga, that would be 72, 000 tourists/year. Uganda and Rwanda see similar numbers. According to this article “A mountain gorilla permit remains $750 in Rwanda and the 56 daily permits are often booked up a year in advance. In Uganda you can now obtain a permit for around $350 for the day before.” Does seeing gorillas matter more than ones safety? Why the risky fascination with gorillas?

Two ~ [Example] On June 9th, 2012, I am in Libreville, capital of Gabon, a city hosting the New York Forum Africa. An event, which sees almost 800 visitors from across Africa and beyond, and which is organised by US based consultancy Richard Attias Associates. Over the course of the day there are panels about developing regional economic and trade frameworks in Africa, about the greatest strides been made in creating an effective structure of financial institutions and about different development paths for the tourism industry.The day ends with a conversation with American actor Robert de Niro.

de Niro seems somewhat distracted. He isn’t in a chatty mood. An American woman who is normally based in Rwanda raises her hand during the Q & A to ask if he enjoyed his trip to Rwanda. I did, he responds, still disengaged. But: “Did you see the gorillas?” She asks. (You can watch the interview here. Comment is 23 mins in.)

Three ~ I believe that it is possible to feel stronger affection towards a gorilla than towards a human being. If I knew and cohabited a space with  a gorilla and it was killed, I would be more saddened by its death than by the death of a stranger.

Four ~ However, we can’t lament groups of gorillas dying and completely ignore that groups of humans are dying for the same reason. In this article by Pierre Briand, we are told that armed groups “have slaughtered wildlife and scared off much-needed tourists”, that they (the armed groups) said to the Belgian gorilla park director, “They let me know that we were not part of their conflict,” but that the tourist lodge was “nevertheless standing empty as a result of the fighting”.
The article does not once mention that there is a conflict that has led to 6 million human deaths. The only reference to the war is to say that, “Even in the best of times, keeping Virunga’s rangers fully funded is a challenge, but with tourism closed because of the war, it has become nearly impossible.”

In a letter from Kofi Annan to the UN security council we are informed that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is “mainly about access, control and trade of five key mineral resources: coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold”. This is a war largely supported by foreign interests.

Five ~ The war in Congo is my war, your war, the mountain gorillas’ war, all of humanity’s war.

Six ~ Wait a minute. Rwanda is accused of supporting Congolese M23 rebels. Congolese M23 rebels are killing gorillas. Some are furious with all this and some argue that Congo rebels have legitimate concerns.The EU is supporting Virunga National Park with 11m euros. Shit! Is there a link between the threats to cut £37 m direct aid to Rwanda and the gorillas in Congo? Oh dear, I may have watched too many conspiracy theory films.

Seven ~ There’s a parallel between speciesism and how we maltreat other humans. It’s part of the same culture of hierarchies and part of this culture is the perseverance, ownership and control of species. We must envision a discussion that aims to both sustain life and liberty of all species, including the Great Apes, while also destroying the dangerous myth of the “heart of darkness” that accompanies the sustenance.

  • MbA

    I love the way your mind works. This is an amazingly insightful and out-of-the-box piece. Thanks for seeing something that the majority will not and voicing it.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked this