Rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have killed another highly endangered mountain gorilla -- the second this month -- sparking fears of mass slaughter, conservationists have warned.
Fighters loyal to dissident DRC general Laurent Nkunda killed, dismembered and ate the lone silverback in volatile eastern Congo's Virunga National Park on January 11, following the previous killing on January 5, they said.
"The animal's remains, including the head, feet, and skin, were found dumped in human excrement in a drop pit latrine," the British-based Africa Conservation Fund said, adding that the discovery was made on Tuesday.
"The stench was terrible, a mixture of rotting flesh and human excrement," said Robert Muir of the Frankfurt Zoological Society who was in the area, near a rebel camp, and was among those to find the remains.
Nkunda's men, blamed for sowing insecurity throughout eastern Congo, killed the latest silverback, a solitary male known as Karema, close to the site of the earlier killing near a former wildlife patrol post abandoned by rangers due to rebel attacks, he said.
"We need to impress on Nkunda and his men that it is inexcusable to destroy national and world heritage of such critical importance," Muir said. "Now that we know that the slaughtered gorilla was eaten, the gorillas habituated for tourism are at extreme risk and we are worried that more have been killed."
Only about 700 mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them living in the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern DRC, where Nkunda's rebels and other armed groups are accused of poaching and encroaching on their habitat.
"The survival of these last remaining mountain gorillas should be one of humanity's greatest priorities," said Richard Leakey, the famed Kenyan conservationist and founder of the group Wildlife Direct that trains park rangers in Virunga.