The signing of a peace deal by warring factions in DR Congo is a historic move that should see a resumption of gorilla monitoring activities in the Virunga National Park after a 4-month stop, The Gorilla Organization has said.
The Congolese government and more than 20 rebel groups were in Goma - the capital of the troubled North Kivu province for more than two weeks and finally agreed to a deal after a number of last minute disagreements were resolved. President Joseph Kabila was in attendance at the signing ceremony.
"The signing of the peace agreements is an historic moment for Goma and eastern DRC", said Mr. Tuver Wundi, The Gorilla Organization's communications manager based in Goma.
"We hope for more peaceful times and look forward to resuming the gorilla monitoring activities in the Virunga National Park".
Since the beginning of September last year, the Virunga park has been occupied rebels loyal to dissident Gen. Laurent Nkunda and much fighting has taken place. During this time a number of the ranger patrol posts have been under the control of various groups and gorilla patrols were forced to cease.
The organisation that was formerly the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe says displaced communities have been forced to rely on the national park for firewood and other resources.
There has also the subsequent increase in charcoal production inside the park that has placed the gorilla habitat under greater threat.
The Gorilla Organization funds a number of community based conservation projects around the Virunga National Park that ease these pressures on the habitat by providing viable alternatives outside of the park.
These projects include the provision of firewood-saving stoves, which reduce firewood consumption by up to 70%; water cisterns, to provide a reliable source of clean water; and microfinance schemes to help set up small businesses that will provide income independently of the national park.
The Virunga National Park is home to around 70 Mountain gorillas, around one fifth of the 380 strong population living in the Virungas Massif straddling Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2007 at least eight gorillas were killed in the National Park and while it is still unclear as to why these gorillas lost their lives, a United Nations fact-finding mission commissioned in response to the attacks, stressed the importance of including local communities gorilla conservation efforts.
This organisation is among a host doing the campaigning for the gorillas, the actual protection on the ground and support to communities.