A U.N. helicopter transported the infant female chimpanzee – nicknamed “Beni” – from northeastern DR Congo on July 20 to the Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Center sanctuary in South Kivu.
The MI-8MTV transport helicopter rescue was part of the U.N.’s regularly scheduled air traffic within the region as part of the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) effort, and reduced what would have a grueling 550-kilometer trip overland to less than two hours. In 2010, the U.N. also airlifted four orphaned gorillas from Rwanda to a sanctuary in DR Congo.
“GRASP is extremely grateful to the MONUSCO officials who made this transfer possible,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Their commitment and coordination on behalf of an endangered species is truly admirable, and GRASP looks forward to developing this relationship further.”
GRASP Backs Calls for DR Congo Peace Talks
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) welcomed Gabon’s recent call for peace negotiations between hostile forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, following weeks of fighting in the Virunga National Park that has threatened the security of critically endangered Mountain gorillas.
Gabon Foreign Minister Emmanuel Issozet Ngondet on July 11 proposed “serious and frank negotiations” to restore peace, following a meeting in Kinshasa with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.
“Gabon strongly condemns and deplores the prevailing security situation in North-Kivu province,” Ngondet said.
On July 15, the African Union announced it was prepared to send a peace-keeping force into the region.
Fierce fighting between DR Congo government forces and rebel factions broke out in and around the Virunga National Park in mid-June. On July 10, over 800 people – including park rangers and their families – were evacuated, leaving only a small group to protect the park headquarters and an orphan gorilla sanctuary at the site.