Yesterday it was announced that four mountain gorillas, including one infant, were shot to death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, in which there are only about 380 gorillas. The murder culprits? No one knows, but those who have business interests in the area (i.e. the charcoal industry) may be suspected as it does not appear that these apes were killed by poachers; nothing was removed from them, they were simply slaughtered. The WCS’s Deo Kujirakwinja describes the situation as such;
“This is a senseless and tragic loss of some of the world’s most endangered and beloved wildlife… This area must be immediately secured or we stand to lose an entire population of these endangered animals.”
A female gorilla from the Congo in the WCS-run Bronx Zoo
Perhaps it’s fitting that I picked up the book Demonic Males last night and read Mark C. Ross’ Dangerous Beauty a few weeks ago; the brutality that exists in some parts of Africa, be it between one group of chimpanzees and another or one group of people and another (like the Hutus and Tutsis), is chilling. Although there may be many people who don’t want to see the gorillas or other great apes go, I fear that within my lifetime some of them (especially gorillas and orangutans) might live on only in zoos. Even amongst chimpanzees, the pressures people are putting on their environment are having some terrifying implications, which I will write about later in a post dedicated to the “killer” chimpanzees of Uganda. Still, despite what may be going on in Africa, those in Western society can’t consider themselves as much better; despite all our relations, apes are still considered to be far less than human.
As John Wilkins mentioned in June, Austria was considering whether to grant rights to non-human primates, although I haven’t heard what has become of the story since mid-June. While America and other industrialized nations that use apes for medical research should be considering the same, I don’t see it happening. Animal rights and animal testing are very precarious subjects, and while I would hope that no animals would be used in the development of health, beauty, and medical products, I know it is an unrealistic goal to have that changed overnight. But, in this case, that is not what I’m asking for. Why we continue to torture apes, being so close to us in so many ways (so much so that they’re used as substitutes for people), I simply can’t understand. The debate over rabbits, rats, and other animals will likely continue, but there should be no debate about our treatment of primates; primate medical testing must stop, else we will continue to be inhuman monsters.