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National Geographic Looks For Gorilla Killers

POSTED: 04:00 PM ET, 07/11/2008 by Derek Kravitz

National Geographic reporter Mark Jenkins and photographer Brent Stirton ventured to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to try and find out who killed seven Virunga mountain gorillas in June and July of last year.

What they found was a high demand for charcoal, a political conspiracy and the former chief warden of Virunga National Park implicated in the killings. It is believed the killings are linked to the illegal charcoal trade; Some 100,000 families living near the park use charcoal from the forests for cooking, boiling water to make it potable, and also for heat. The trade is worth more than $30 million in U.S. dollars a year, National Geographic found.

Stirton's photos provide a rare glimpse into the jungle and a timeline stretching 18 years shows the undermined conservation efforts at Africa's oldest national park. A video documenting the case and the pair's journey completes the package.

By Derek Kravitz |  July 11, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
Previous: Coming Attractions: Who Killed Chandra Levy? | Next: Who Killed Chandra Levy: Reporters' Notebook

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I recently saw Charlie Rose's interview of Mark Jenkins, Brett Stirton and a Virunga National Park wildlife officer. They made clear the need to address the problem of the locals' dire need for charcoal, explaining that there is an alternative way to provide it as opposed to burning the trees in the park. Surely the international community would be open to establish funding for a substitute source of charcoal that would ultimately protect endangered gorillas and Congolese natives that live near the park.

Posted by: Nancy Campbell | July 13, 2008 5:48 PM

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