Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Guerillas versus gorillas

It is terrible to see images of thousands of refugees flooding eastwards out of Congo, especially when one remembers how the difference between Hutu and Tutsi was created. The Belgians in Rwanda and Burundi wanted to divide and rule, in the best colonial tradition. They issued identity cards showing people's "ethnic" membership. People who had ten or more cattle were stamped as "Tutsi" (which originally just meant rich). Those who had less than ten were "Hutu" (poor). One anthropologist even invented the myth that the Tutsis were a master race who had swept down from the North, and that they were taller, more intelligent and nobler than the Hutus. Seventy years later those identity cards were the basis for genocide.

But if it is so easy to create the conditions for war between humans, how difficult it seems to prevent our conflicts from destroying other species. This latest disaster threatens the survival of the two hundred mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, the headquarters of which have been seized by guerillas. Gorillas are our closest cousins after the chimpanzees and bonobos - peaceful creatures who just want a quiet life with their families. They don't even compete with humans for resources (though trophy hunters see them as a resource). There are only about seven hundred mountain gorillas left in the wild; see what you can do to help them survive:

No comments:

Post a Comment