Could Rebel Fighting Possibly Be Good for Gorillas? John Boonstra January 27, 2009 In the Year of the Gorilla, and amidst a consistent panoply of violence, comes this bit of surprising good news: The population of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park has risen by 12.5%, a census shows. Rebels have had control of the park for a over a year, and the first census taken since then shows an increase in their population? This is either an anomaly, or it belies the convention intuition that having a huge protected forest in the hands of murderous rebels probably does not bode well for primates. That, or some entirely different explanation that has more to do with gorilla demographics than I'd care to know. With only the first two options available, I'd say a little bit of both. Not to disparage the benefits provided by the gorillas' caretakers -- the deplorable attacks against whom, one could reasonably wager, have been a destabilizing factor with regard to the area's gorilla population (and they have a blog, so there's no way I could disparage them) -- but rebel presence in the enormous Virunga National Park may not have affected gorillas as much as is typically assumed. Over 3,000 square miles. a couple hundred gorillas are not too likely to get hit by a stray bullet. Really, though, the relative well-being of the region's gorillas should just provide further reason to the, shall we say, morally eerie logic of bemoaning gorilla deaths when many, many more human beings are being raped and killed. May the Year of the Gorilla continue successfully, but may the Year of Peace in Eastern Congo flourish at least equally.