Conservationists on Thursday announced the birth of a rare mountain gorilla in eastern Congo, where rebels have been accused of killing and eating the endangered animals.
The tiny gorilla, named Ndeze, was born Feb. 17 in Congo's Virunga National Park, home to some of the world's last 700 mountain gorillas, said Samantha Newport of the conservation support group WildlifeDirect.
"It's incredibly positive. These gorillas have managed to survive a 10-year civil war," Newport told The Associated Press by telephone from the park. It is "an absolute miracle and testament to the work of the rangers, who worked throughout the war without receiving a salary, and to conservationists from all over the world."
Last month, the London-based Africa Conservation Fund and local park officials accused rebels loyal to renegade army commander-turned-warlord Laurent Nkunda of slaughtering two of the animals for food. Nkunda commands thousands of fighters in the vast country's lawless east who have clashed sporadically with government troops.
Local park ranger Paulin Ngobobo met with rebel officials in late January and brokered a verbal agreement to stop the killings, Newport said.
Ndeze is the 12th member of a gorilla family living in a sector of the park called Mikeno that is home to about 80 gorillas, though a precise census has been impossible to carry out because of ongoing insecurity.