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UN to airlift gorillas from DR Congo

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Airlift will take baby gorillas to sanctuary
  • Gorillas may go extinct in much of central Africa by the mid-2020s
  • Situation critical in Democratic Republic of the Congo where militias log and mine habitat

(CNN) -- The United Nations will carry out a second airlift of baby gorillas, one of the world's most endangered species, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The operation, planned for mid-July, will take the gorillas to a sanctuary where they will be cared for before being released into the wild, the U.N. said Saturday.

The first such rescue was undertaken on May 27.

Until now, the Congo Basin in Central Africa had been a rainforest refuge for gorillas and other apes.

But the threats to the gorillas' survival are so acute that a study that predicted only 10 percent of the gorilla population will remain by 2030 is now considered too optimistic.

A new U.N. report, released in March, said gorillas may go extinct in much of central Africa by the mid-2020s.

The situation is especially critical in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There, militias have seized large chunks of gorilla land and logged and mined it. They have done so because the illegal trade in timber and in metals such as gold and coltan -- used in cell phones -- generates between $14 million and $50 million a year for them, the report says.

The money helps fund the militias' battle against the Congolese army.

As the militia fight the army, the insecurity in the region has driven thousands into refugee camps. Professional poachers have taken to providing "bush meat" -- wild animal meat -- to the refugees and to the workers in the mining and logging camps. And increasingly, that meat comes from apes, the report said.