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Monday, January 4, 2010

Congo News Updates

Volcano eruption threatens in Congo

Congo News Updates
January 04 2010 : Lava from a volcano in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening rare chimpanzees, the British Broadcasting Corporation reports.

Mount Nyamulagira, 25km from the eastern city of Goma, erupted at dawn on Saturday, sending lava into the surrounding Virunga National Park. About 40 endangered chimpanzees and other animals live in the area.

But the country‘s famous critically endangered mountain gorillas are said to be safe as they live further east. Emmanuel de Merode, Virunga‘s director, said that park staff were working with the civilian and military authorities to assess the risk and take appropriate action.

Rangers were deployed to the area to monitor the flow of lava and were due to report back hourly, he added. A government official, Feller Lutahichirwa, said observers were monitoring the situation with help from UN helicopters, the Associated Press reports.

While few people live in the area immediately affected, officials said their primary concern was to protect human settlements. Innocent Mburanumwe, warden for Virunga‘s southern sector, said that lava was flowing towards an area to the south of the volcano, where “many people” live.

In the pre-dawn hours on Saturday, rangers at Virunga National Park were awoken by the sound of Mt. Nyamulagira erupting. Located 16 miles from the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park is home to the largest remaining continuous population of chimpanzees in the world.

In addition, the park is home to the endangered mountain gorilla, hippopotamus, leopard and other animals. The gorilla's are said to be safe as they live further east and are not in direct threat from the eruption.

Virunga National Park Director Emmanuel de Merode said that park staff, working in conjunction with civilian and military authorities, have been mobilized and continue to assess the risks and take appropriate action.

At 10,023 feet, Mt. Nyamulagira is the most active volcano in all of Africa. A shield volcano, Nyamulagira is built up by the outpouring of lava. With more than 35 documented eruptions since 1882, this towering volcanic peak poses a constant threat to wildlife through the destruction of habitat and through the displacement of animal groups.

As chimpanzees live in tight-knit family groups, with communities numbering from 10 to 100 members, they are at greater risk of dispersal as a result of natural disasters. Without the protection of the troupe, displaced chimps face a greater risk of predation, by other animals and by human poachers.

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