Rebel troops blamed for the recent slaughter of critically endangered mountain gorillas in Central Africa have agreed to end the killing, conservation workers have announced.
Earlier this month the dismembered remains of two mountain gorillas eaten within ten days of each other were discovered in the Virunga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), raising fears of further deaths.
Now the rebels held responsible have vowed to stop further ape killings. The rebels made the pledge during talks with wildlife rangers mediated by the United Nations and the Congolese army, according to the conservation group WildlifeDirect, based in Kenya and the DRC.
The meeting took place near a rebel camp at Bikenge, where the remains of the second gorilla killed were found floating in a pit latrine last week in Virunga National Park.
The agreement was made between senior Virunga park warden Paulin Ngobobo and rebel force leader Colonel Makenga, WildlifeDirect says.
"We weren't expecting to succeed given the overwhelming odds against [it]," Ngobobo said in a statement.
"However, this is just another small step," he added. "We must keep up international pressure to ensure that this does not happen again next week, next month, or next year."
Only around 700 mountain gorillas remain worldwide. More than half live in the Virunga volcanic mountains region shared by DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda (see Africa map).
The two eaten gorillas were adult males known as silverbacks. News of their deaths provoked international outrage.