August 25, 2007

After the story breaks

If your going to be a researcher in this field, and actually look at evidence critically get ready for the impending fall out when you ask questions your witness is not prepared to answer. Some of that fallout will come from other researchers as well, who are willing to believe just about anything. Pay attention to the word believe, it becomes important.

Since this most recent blog about the pictures someone is trying to pass off as authentic, I have become a lighting rod of questions - not so much questions for information, but questions about my own ability to research.

How can that be you ask? What could they possibly be asking?

First question inevitably is "have you even seen a Bigfoot?" As if seeing one of these animals makes you more capable of investigating this mystery. I have to chuckle at questions like this, because it shows the level some are willing to go to, to try and make you and your questions sound unimportant, and you a bad person. Anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to type my name, can find out in approximately 5 minutes, that I have never seen this animal. So, why even ask that ridiculous question?

Because they already know the answer, and the answer is not important,

What is important is they think your impending "no" means they now have a viable way to discredit you in the eyes of any other "believer" who may read the comments. What these people seem to forget is simply, not even witnesses have been able to prove this animal exists, so what makes them think their questions or their ability to research is any better than say someone like me?

They don't, and don't be fooled by this silly little game. It's not about your ability to research. It's a little game they like to play to make you look bad and hopefully back off the person being questioned.

When I was still living in Wisconsin,

I worked as an Intern for the State of Wisconsin as an Investigator. I would spend all day at the local jail interviewing inmates and taking their information and stories back to the office where they would be assigned to an Attorney for defense. Then the long process of verifying their stories would start. I interviewed some very tough people, accused of some very bad things. Nowhere on my application for internship or during my interview was I told I had to either be a victim of these crimes or perpetrated them, in order to investigate them properly.

This is no different.

In fact, your own personal experiences should never come into play in situations like this. And, had I ever been the victim of a crime for which I had to interview someone in a jail for, and I showed any emotion about meeting someone like this, I would have been pulled from the case. Your own personal experiences have nothing to do with this. You must remain objective. Objectivity is critical regardless of what the person has been through - and you must maintain a professional distance.

I don't care what you "believe", tell me what you can prove.

I'm not saying witnesses to a Bigfoot should never be involved in the research, but you have a much higher bar to maintain. You must be able to detach your own emotions of what you went through - or you are sympathizing with the witness, and less likely to figure out your being hoaxed or lied to.

If you are an experienced researcher, or just starting out, you have a duty to find out the truth regardless of what that truth is. Don't be bullied into backing off from asking questions you might have. Don't be rude or obnoxious, but don't let anyone tell you, your questions are not worthy of a response. I personally am tired of all the really good campfire stories and the blobsquatches that lead to nothing new.

I will always fight for higher standards in this.

I will admit the standards are improving but we have a long way to go. I will never be an advocate for lowering any of our standards and to do so is simply detrimental to the research. Has science accepted any of the evidence to date? No, because they have very high standards of proof. If you simply want to be out in the woods and get scared by every twig snap and call that a Bigfoot, or accept every witness account as the "gods honest truth" because they are a really good person, be my guest, but your information does nothing to help end this mystery one way or the other.

Do I think there is a large upright bipedal ape roaming the forests of this country?

I think its a possibility. Do I know it for sure? No I do not. Why? Because I have never seen it. For me to say I "believe" this animal exists is being disingenuous, and not true to who I am. Now, if I see this animal - all bets are off. I'm not sure what I will say or feel after that, because I am not at that point.

But I will guarantee you one thing,

If I can not remain objective after having a sighting, I will stop interviewing witnesses. That you can depend on. I'm not interested in muddying the waters and making this even harder. I want to get to the bottom of this mystery not be,

"another good campfire story".

August 23, 2007

PSA Beware Of Photos coming out of East Texas.

Yesterday I came across an interesting post on a message board not my own. On this message board a gentleman claimed to have met with TBRC Conference committee. Why you ask? Well, apparently he claims to have photos that are “Ground Breaking” “Rivaling the Patty Footage" (his words not mine). Well, Craig Woolheater and Monica Rawlins were more than happy to meet with this man at a Borders Bookstore here in Dallas Texas.

But, why did he want to show these “ground breaking” photos to Craig and Monica? Well, he wanted to be listed as a speaker for the 2007 Texas Bigfoot Conference to be held in Jefferson Texas. He wanted to show a powerpoint presentation on his still photos. Craig and Monica as always are happy to meet with witnesses and evaluate their potential evidence and their stories, but make no mistake the TBRC maintains high standards when it comes to any possible evidence. Well, I think this exchange next will speak for itself.

Monica found out about this person posting, after the TBRC had met with this gentleman and politely declined, the following is the email sent to this gentleman:

Craig Woolheater

Without direct TBRC involvement in the matter, we are unable to conclusively determine whether or not the quality of the photos and the conditions described by the photographer(s) meet our evidenciary standards. Therefore the Conference Committee cannot justify inclusion of an additional presentation on the matter in the 2007 Texas Bigfoot Conference.

For the record, should conclusive, unequivocal evidence be discovered by or made available to the TBRC at some point in the future, we do not believe that the Conference or any other symposium will be the forum of our choice at which to exhibit such findings. More than likely, the TBRC will seek to cooperate with several governmental and private agencies in steps leading tothe listing of the species and publish the findings in a reputable scientific journal.

On behalf of the TBRC, the Committee wishes to thank you for the opportunity to consider your request and looks forward to seeing you and your team members in November in Jefferson.

Craig Woolheater
Chair, TBRC Conference
Committee Members

This is a pretty straightforward letter, it is not insulting and not demeaning to the person who was offering the information. Truth is, his offer was declined because he had not had his photos evaluated by those who could say whether these were authentic or had been photoshopped. Having your potential evidence validated by someone with expert knowledge of say photos – to determine if Photoshop had been employed is the very first thing you should do as an investigator.

So, on with the story.

To the above email, this gentleman with his “ground breaking” photos jumped online and went to a message board and posted this:

[name withheld, for now]

Posted: Aug 18 2007, 08:57 AM

Just heard back from the 2007 tbrc conference committee (who haven't seen a bf either..I asked them point blank). They have turned down my request to speak at their conference, show photos and other evidence from East Texas. Woolheater said that since the evidence didn't come from the tbrc, it doesn't meet their "evidenciary standards". As I expected from them. They also stated that evidence of that nature should best be left for government and private agencies to process and posted in scientific journals...but not at a conference. They're keeping a tradition alive....surrounding themselves with self proclaimed "experts" who have never seen a bf, nor inter-acted with one of more of them, but proclaiming their existence through circumstantial front of the media.

How many people in the field of Bigfoot Research do not know about Craig Woolheater’s sighting? He also goes on in another post to say Craig's sighting was a “rear view mirror” sighting. He couldn’t be more wrong. Which causes my first bit of concern with this guy. Know of which you speak, or forever remove the question of how well you pay attention. Thats free advice :)

Apparently we were good enough for him to want to speak at our conference, but now that we question him we are a horrible organization, does anyone else get the irony in that??

Well, does anyone else smell something foul? Compare what he says was the response from Craig Woolheater and what was actually sent to him. By the way, the above email from Craig Woolheater was supplied by the person whom I quoted above, not Craig Woolheater…. Something is rotten in East Texas.

The evidentiary standards of the TBRC include a chain of custody, and an expert to back up what you say about the evidence. Simply telling us “I didn’t photoshop anything” just isn’t going to cut it. There is a reason why the TBRC has such a good name, and it’s not by accepting every piece of information as the gospel when it’s thrown out in front of us.

To continue….

Now of course just about everyone who was (with the exception of a silent few who were paying close attention) following after this guy on that specific message board is buying his info hook line and sinker. Even the members of the TBRC are now taking a hit, and unfounded accusations, and outright lies are being thrown about as if they are the truth (problem was they didn’t get the actual email until my involvement). I had to call this guy out and question his story. Yep, that’s right.

The girls had to step up. I fired off an email to Monica. I offer this first post by Monica.

Posted: Aug 22 2007, 01:38 PM

Oh my dear, dear (Name removed for now). Remember me? I was the one sitting next to you when you showed the pictures to Woolheater. You did not meet with the entire conference committee, just myself and Craig. The other person was a member of the Board of Directors, as you were told but conveniently forgot. To say that no one on the conference committee ever had a sighting is bull, Craig told you about his sighting when you asked; and if you need to know, I am the only one on the committee who hasn't had a sighting.

The pictures do not meet our evidentiary standards because no expert has reviewed them. Experts in the field of photography do exist, you know. Have you shown them to one? You refused to allow us to have one examine the photo's for doctoring or photoshopping, so no, as they as they stand now do not meet our standards because they have not been reviewed by any expert; are we to just take your word for it? A third party unknown to any of us could give an unbiased opinion, although I really don't think you want that, do you? You had to point out in one of the pictures where the supposed BF was hiding. Now, if these are the ground breaking pictures you are bragging about here, why do you need to point it out. If it rivals the P/G film, as you told Craig, wouldn't the image be obvious?

The other photo's are compelling, until you look at them closely. As someone who works closely with advertisers who use Photoshop, they looked pretty photoshopped to me. You told us in the meeting that Chester Moore was "chomping at the bit" to use the photo's at his conference, so do it. Show them there and move along.

His response? Good Question. This response is so telling it makes my liver hurt.

All you ask would have been presented formally at the conference. As I have heard it from Craig directly, he and his wife MAY have seen something on the side of the road in their rearview mirror back in the late 1970's. If he has had any other experiences, I am unaware of them. 25 years of speaking in front of groups of scientists in my scientific discipline (Geology and Geophysics related to petroleum exploration), all presentation orientated and peer reviewed. I have made no harsh claims against anyone. Only stated what I have read in some of the books published by the registered speakers, that the group of speakers is very weak or non-existent on personal sightings and encounters. They are strong on circumstantial evidence and I agree with them on many aspects of their published work. Some of it fits with our field work....some doesn't. I'll take hands on in- the- field experience over internet message board research anyday. The evidence has been shown to those that our group trust....thats of which is(Name Removed). It will not be shown to those whom we don't know or trust. We have had some of the evidence attempted to be stolen by outsiders. Unknown people have shown up at doorsteps requesting to review the evidence. Because of these occurances, we choose to keep it protected. If it were yours, I would assume you would do the same thing.

I gave the tbrc a chance to use their forum to allow me to show the evidence obtained from E. Tx, since its promoted as a TEXAS BIGFOOT CONFERENCE. They chose not to....its their right and choice. I have talked with Chester Moore, and if he has a conference in '08, I will discuss it with my group and we will talk with Chester about presenting it there. When the time is right (when our group decides its right), we plan on making the evidence known to the scientific community (of our choosing, no one else's) and let them run with it. I have known Chester and Craig both a long time. Chesters conference was my first choice as a venue to present the evidence, but he isn't having a conference in 2007, Craig is.....thats the only reason the tbrc was considered for release of this data. Data of this type is best reviewed first in conference form. Once discussed and presented formally, decisions can be made where and whom to talk to next concerning the validity of the data and any additional testing necessary to firm up our findings.

“All we asked would be presented at the conference?” Monica got it right when she responded with this:

Posted: Aug 22 2007, 02:14 PM

I would think it logical to have your ducks in a row PRIOR to formally introducing evidence to the public, not afterward.

Standing ovation for Monica – that is an extremely valid and EXCELLENT point. I’m so happy she is on the Board of Directors for the TBRC – and thank god everyone on that board would have said the exact same thing.

When questioned about the tall TBRC tales he told, he had this to say:

Posted: Aug 22 2007, 02:34 PM

No, No, No....I never said I received a slap in the face. Quite the contrary. The tbrc made a decision to not let me present our findings at their venue. Its their right. I gave them the opportunity first and they elected to pass on it. Thats all fine. I have no problem with their decision....its solely theirs. However, if its a Tx Bigfoot some real Texas research....not some rehashed authors with limited real life experience selling books.

So, from his response above, he would like everyone to know he is not upset that he was turned down by the TBRC.. I love all the fancy foot work he does to play “Nope I didn’t say that”.

I would be a fool if I had not responded with:

QUOTE (Our New East Texas Friend)
They're keeping a tradition alive....surrounding themselves with self proclaimed "experts" who have never seen a bf, nor inter-acted with one of more of them, but proclaiming their existence through circumstantial front of the media.

Quote by me: So, you didnt say the above quote?

Quote by me: Or this one,

QUOTE (Our New East Texas Friend)
I got the biggest kick out of the fact that the photos don't meet their "evidenciary standards". Fact is...they don't have any standards, because they don't have any evidence...nor do they have people capable of gainiing such. If they took these photos, they would be beating down the door to get the media involved...pure hyprocrisy.

This gentleman never did respond to this. How could he? He had been caught in an outright lie trying to establish himself as an injured party, so those he was complaining to would feel sorry for him and listen even more intently to what he had to say. “Look at the bully picking on me”. Even though the “Bully” had remained silent to this point.

He not only got caught, he provided the information that was his ultimate undoing. People like this get cocky, and they get so self confident that they think no one is smarter than them. Well, this guy was undone by his own words.

He can now take his photos to Chester Moore for the 2008 Conference, so why is he clearly so upset about being turned down by the TBRC when he clearly thinks the TBRC isn’t capable of evaluating anything? Would you take your evidence to someone or a group you felt were completely inept? Would you really trust them to not screw something up?

Well, here is another question that’s just begging to be asked, why not take them to Chester now? Chester is very well known in this research and could possibly open a lot of doors for analysis and documentation of the animal he claims to have captured in these photos. Apparently, he is choosing to wait until the 2008 Conference… I am confused by this. Can anyone explain this reasoning to me – doesn’t that go against everything we are in this for?

Ok, maybe some just want really, really cool pictures. You can keep your cool pictures, I want proof.

When questioned by another forum member about whether he intended to post his photos on their forum, he responded with this:

Posted: Aug 22 2007, 07:37 AM

I figured this would come up. The answer is no. I/we won't post anything on the internet in the way of photos or other tangible evidence. The evidence is just too hard to come by, to put into the public domain. The cost I/we have incurred in getting to the point we are at is huge. Equipment alone we, together, have probably $75,000 invested. (Name Removed) has seen the photos and other evidence due to my absolute trust in him. He can comment on them if he wishes. There were conditions place on the tbrc if they accepted my offer to show them....such as no photo's, video's at all...only audio so Woolheater could make some money on the conference. I/we have logged many, many hard nights in the woods, spent lots of money and nurtured relationships to get to the point we are, and I/we aren't giving it up to the public at this point in time. Maybe later, once certain conditions have been met. Sorry.

Your damn right people are going to ask to see your pictures, you brought it up. When someone goes out of their way to tell you they have awesome photos then refuses to show them, citing copyright – you should yell BS and RUN FOREST RUN!!!! Something is not adding up. That is why people get a copyright on these things – to protect their financial interest number one, and two to keep others from claiming ownership, so they can then show others – and protect their interest. You don’t get a copyright then say “I have a copyright, but I won’t show you because I’m afraid someone will steal my photos”. That was frankly the most laughable comment I have heard in some time. My favorite line from his above quote is this:

I/we have logged many, many hard nights in the woods, spent lots of money and nurtured relationships to get to the point we are, and I/we aren't giving it up to the public at this point in time.

But that’s exactly what he offered the TBRC. I think there is another reason why he won’t post those photos. I offer this for your inspection and consideration:

MMRawlins Posted: Aug 22 2007, 01:42 PM

The pictures do not meet our evidentiary standards because no expert has reviewed them. Experts in the field of photography do exist, you know. Have you shown them to one? You refused to allow us to have one examine the photo's for doctoring or photoshopping, so no, as they stand now do not meet our standards because they have not been reviewed by any expert; are we to just take your word for it?

He also claims to have spent $75,000.00 on photos he has not yet had analyzed by an expert in photography. Was the $75,000.00 just for the copyright? What could possibly cost so much? Why would you do that, with no expert authentication? You have no scientific validation to back up your story, you have no hard evidence by way of DNA or anything else (not even a hair sample) yet, you decide $75,000.00 is a worth while investment for something you can’t prove anyway?? Ok, this is your second clue to “head for the hills”. Politely thank the person for their time, but scram out of that place as fast as you can.

Posted: Aug 22 2007, 02:16 PM
Posted by our New East Texas Friend

We have refused to let anyone, outside our group, have a copy of anything. We have all played this game before and don't trust anyone outside the group. Yes, the photos have undergone analysis by an unbiased third party with the original shots. Some of the pics that I brought for you to see have been lightened or outlined or colors of foliage removed...others were untouched.

You don’t trust anyone outside your group? Remember, you came to the TBRC – the TBRC did not come to you. So, yes, the burden of proof is squarely on your shoulders.

In an exchange between this gentleman and Monica he says he planned to have his photos analyzed AFTER the conference. Let me say that again, I don’t want anyone to miss this. He said he would have his photos analyzed AFTER the conference. Now above he says analysis has been done. Enhancements have been done. Why didn’t he bring a report by this expert that analyzed the film? That’s very standard. Anyone rendering an expert opinion would give the person requesting such analysis a final report – in writing. That was not supplied or even hinted at during his meeting with Craig and Monica.

This gentleman has some serious inconsistencies in his story, as he told Craig Woolheater and Monica he had no work done on those photos, then he admits to photoshopping out leaves etc and enhancing the photos (was this part of the $75,000.00 price tag?) Big no no. Anyone who has been in this long enough should know by now – you do not have anything done to photographic evidence. You do not manipulate images in any way, shape or form, for no reason whatsoever.

He refuses to have his photos analyzed by an independent expert, yet the TBRC and its members are horrible for not simply taking him at his word, and allowing him to give a presentation on supposed evidence with no factual information to verify his claims of legitimacy.

That my friend is how you get hoaxed.

These are the things you watch out for. Now, I am not posting this mans name, because as was pointed out to me, he may be an innocent victim in this as well. My money is on not. He has gotten himself in too far to be so innocent. And I don’t care how many friends you have, if your evidence amounts to your “word” and yet you want to put it out to the world as factual information – sorry I will always do whatever I think is necessary to put a stop to it.

Researchers have a decision to make when it comes to these issues.. Stick your head in the sand and bury it, or speak up and don’t allow others to be taken in by these things. I am choosing to speak out, because I have first hand information, and I feel it is my responsibility once things go too far – to inform other researchers of what to watch out for. If evidence is good enough for you based solely on the person who obtained it – don’t come crying to me or write up long diatribes about how you were suckered into believing someone, when you just didn’t want to see the truth. I wont be bullied either to keep my mouth shut when I think someone is attempting to push off bad information. I will always do what I think is right - and let the chips fall where they may.

So, if you get an email or read a post about photos that “Ground Breaking” out of East Texas – be wary, use caution and please do not be taken in by this.

August 12, 2007

In The Interest of Full Disclosure

Last Updated: Saturday, 11 August 2007, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK

BBC News, Africa

'UN troops 'helped smuggle gold'

By Martin Plaut

BBC News

The BBC has obtained an internal UN report examining allegations of gold smuggling by Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It concluded that Pakistani officers provided armed escorts, hospitality and food to gold smugglers in east Congo.

The confidential report recommended the case be referred to Islamabad for appropriate action against the troops.An earlier UN report, published in July after an 18-month inquiry, found only one man involved in the illicit trade.

How does this effect the plight of the Gorilla? Read the full article. Can the U.N. be trusted to do the right thing?

August 11, 2007

UNESCO mission to help save threatened gorilla population in Virunga National Park (DRC)

  • © UNESCO/Ian Redmond
  • Silverback Titus and group, mountain gorillas, Virunga National park

A mission by UNESCO and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) will leave for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 11 August to investigate the apparently senseless slaughter of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979 and on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1994. These killings are a blow for the preservation of mountain gorillas and a setback for conservation efforts at the World Heritage site.

The mission, scheduled to last ten days, has been invited by the DRC authorities and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN). Working with local authorities and partners in the field, the members of the mission will investigate the reasons for the targeting of the mountain gorillas whose population in the park is estimated at 370 (out of a total of 700 mountain gorillas worldwide). Seven gorillas have been killed in separate incidents this year alone.

On the basis of its findings, and in consultation with the Congolese authorities, the mission will propose measures for the protection of the mountain gorillas and for the improvement of the conservation of the site’s outstanding universal value.

This mission has been organized within the framework of the reinforced monitoring mechanism adopted by World Heritage Committee during its 31st session in Christchurch, New Zealand, just over a month ago. There is grave concern for the mountain gorillas as the latest killings are inexplicable: they do not correspond to traditional poaching where animals are killed for commercial purposes. Furthermore the killings have taken place despite the increased guard patrols and the presence of military forces in the area.

Following discussions with the Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, Francesco Bandarin, William Lacey Swing, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), promised that MONUC will lend its full support to the UNESCO / IUCN mission.

The members of the mission will meet government representatives in Kinshasa. They will also collect data including testimonies from guards and administrators of the National Park as well as representatives of MONUC and of local communities. The experts will meet political and military leaders of the province and examine the state of conservation of Virunga National Park, the threats on the site and its actual management. They will also examine the economic impact of the situation on the local economy, notably in relation to tourism. The experts will brief the authorities in Kinshasa as well as partners in the field of their findings and compile a report on the situation.

Situated in the northeast region of the DRC, near the borders of Uganda and Rwanda, Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa, established in 1925. The park is very important for the in situ preservation of biological diversity.

In view of the fact that the five World Heritage sites of the DRC have had to be placed on the World Heritage in Danger List, and of the recent deterioration in Virunga, UNESCO is planning a high-level meeting in the autumn to examine ways to improve the situation. The meeting will bring together the relevant DRC authorities, UNESCO natural heritage specialists, representatives of the African Union, sub-regional organizations and the President of the IUCN.

UNESCO and observers are particularly concerned to note that political and military improvements on the ground in recent years have failed to contribute to the conservation of World Heritage properties in the DRC, properties whose integrity has been preserved during the years of the Great Lake Conflict (in the late 1990s and early 2000s) thanks to funding by Belgium, Italy and the United Nations Foundation. Virunga and the other sites in the east of the DRC are particularly vulnerable.

August 10, 2007

Baby gorilla found alive after mass "execution" in Congo

27.07.2007 / 13:05

Baby gorilla found alive after mass "execution" in Congo

NEW YORK. July 27. Three female mountain gorillas and a male silverback were found shot dead this week in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.

But park rangers received some good news yesterday when the five-month-old baby of one of the dead females was found alive. The baby gorilla, named Ndeze, was badly dehydrated but otherwise fine, the rangers reported. She was taken to the nearby city of Goma, where the young ape will be looked after at the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

Ndeze received widespread international attention in February when its mother, called Safari, gave birth—a rare occurrence among the troubled mountain gorillas. Safari was among the three females found dead, but the baby's older brother rescued her from the mother's body after the attack, rangers say. The siblings had been seen fleetingly in the dense forest, but rangers had expected that the baby would die from dehydration because the brother could not feed her. When they found the pair, rangers say, Ndeze's brother was reportedly calm as they took her away.

Paulin Ngobobo, the head ranger of the southern sector of Virunga National Park, called the baby's rescue "an amazing piece of news." "We had given up hope on Ndeze," he said.

Silverback Shot

The four adult gorillas were shot to death by unknown assailants on Sunday night. The slaughter deeply shocked the rangers and conservationists who work to protect the endangered gorillas in a park that has been ravaged by civil strife for years. "This is a disaster," said Emmanuel de Merode, director of WildlifeDirect, a conservation group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya that supports the rangers working in Virunga.

Park staff and WildlifeDirect officials stationed in Virunga's Bukima camp said they heard gunshots coming from inside the dense forest around 8 p.m. on Sunday. When the rangers ventured into the forest on Monday morning, they found the three female gorillas. "The gorillas were all quite close together. They had all been shot," de Merode said.

In addition to Safari, another dead female was the mother of a two-year-old. The third gorilla killed was pregnant. It was not until the following day that rangers found the silverback Senkekwe, the leader of the so-called Rugendo family of 12 individuals. Another two gorillas from the family are reportedly missing, their fate unknown.

Rebel Militias

The Rugendo family is one of several groups of gorillas that live on the Congo side of the sprawling Virunga National Park, which straddles the border of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, and are visited from the Bukima camp, Kazinform quotes National Geographic News. More than half of the gorillas' population, estimated at about 700, is found in Virunga. The rest live in forests in Rwanda and Uganda.

The park lies in the heart of one of the most troubled regions of Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo is struggling to emerge from a civil war that has left an estimated four million people dead and dates back to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Today the area is home to a vast array of rebel militias, government soldiers, foreign troops, and villagers who are unsympathetic to the rangers protecting the park. Poaching remains a major problem.

Early this year two silverback gorillas were killed within the span of two days in the same area as where the latest killings occurred. The incident sparked an international outcry of support for the embattled gorillas. Those apes appeared to have been butchered for their meat. One of them had had his dismembered body dumped in a latrine.

Act of Sabotage

Last month a female gorilla from the Kabirizi family was found shot to death in the park. Another female from that family has been missing ever since and is presumed to have been killed too. Sunday's "execution-style" killing of the gorillas was identical to the killing last month, de Merode said. He believes the slaughter was meant to send a chilling message to the rangers to get out of the park.

"We don't think it was the villagers who did it," he said. "This was deliberate … an act of sabotage." De Merode said there is evidence from the site of the killings linking the incident to the area's lucrative charcoal trade. Apparently the killers had tried to burn one of the bodies.

Virtually all the charcoal supplied to nearby Goma—worth an estimated U.S. $30 million a year—is made from wood harvested illegally inside Virunga National Park, he said. "Last year Rwanda put a ban on any charcoal production within Rwanda," de Merode said. "This means that whole country's charcoal is largely supplied from Congo," he added. "This has put a lot of pressure on the park."

If your interested in how you can help these magnificent animals please click this link:
MGVP: The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project Incorporated