Mail Call: The Mysterious Killings of Great Apes

Readers were horrified and many moved to tears by our cover story and accompanying photos on the slaughter of four endangered gorillas in Congo. One said, "Wild animals threatened with extinction from indiscriminate and unsustainable hunting, slaughter for body parts and meat is beyond tragic." Others wrote to express their grief. "[Looking at your photos] I shared in the reverence of the people as they brought these magnificent animals to rest. I closed the magazine knowing that these creatures were loved and respected." Another added, "Those images will stay with me for a long time." Some cited the dedication of the park rangers charged with patrolling vast tracts of jungle, calling it "awe-inspiring." We also heard from those who asked for a distinction between "lawful ethical hunters who are the most consistent conservationists, and lawbreakers who would commit such a crime." Still, one reader, so disturbed by the wanton killings and feeling the need to do something, wrote, "After getting no sleep last night, the first thing I did was become a member of the Nature Conservancy.

A Gorilla Tragedy in Congo
I've been reading NEWSWEEK for 20-plus years, through the explosion of the space-shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin wall, 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Only now do I feel compelled to get out of my chair and write. My heart is broken over the mass murder of the silverback gorilla and his family ("Slaughter in the Jungle," Aug. 6). Perhaps because I am now a mother, or perhaps just because I am human, I'm at a loss, and feel helpless over the death of these grand, incredible creatures who are obviously not as savage as their human brothers and sisters.
Laurie Hines Ackermann
Arlington, Texas

Thank you for bringing attention to the recent tragedy surrounding the four mountain gorillas brutally killed in Congo. We thought readers might be interested to know more about the welfare of the infant gorilla found clinging to its dead mother. Veterinarians from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project took the 5-month-old female named Ndeze to a facility in Goma, where she is being closely monitored with the help of experts from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Veterinarians are very optimistic that she will pull through. Unfortunately, Ndeze's story is all too common in Congo. The MGVP and DFGFI are also caring for another infant mountain gorilla whose mother was shot dead with an AK-47 in June. With only about 700 mountain gorillas remaining, this senseless violence must be stopped, or we risk losing these wonderful, gentle creatures forever. The MGVP, headquartered at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, is one of a few conservation programs in the world to provide health care and treatment to an endangered species in its natural habitat. To learn more on how to help mountain gorillas, visit
Dr. Mike Cranfield
Director, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Baltimore, Md.

The decimation of wildlife in west and central Africa is the sad reality of the destruction of priceless creatures by criminals who violate the law—bush hunters, poachers, rebel forces and tribal herdsmen poisoning lions, leopards and hyenas in national parks to protect their livestock illegally grazing in the area. Please distinguish between these illegal hunters and those who hunt nonthreatened species legally. There is quite another story to be told of the millions of dollars infused into African economies such as that of Tanzania by the legal hunting industry. This industry has created a very high value on wildlife which is recognized by the citizens and government, and has led to highly successful game-management practices that are strictly enforced (to the extent anything is strictly enforced in Africa). Species populations in Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, for example, are much larger now than just a few decades ago. To fail to distinguish between legal and illegal hunting and paint all hunting with such a broad brush is deceptive and damaging to one of the proven methods of preserving wildlife populations.
Russell Reese
Houston, Texas

The U.S. trophy-hunting industry is threatening rare species around the world, and an award program by the Safari Club International drives this competitive killing. Trophy hunters set their sights on winning the "African Big Five"— a leopard, elephant, lion, rhino and buffalo. In an ironic twist of so-called conservation, the more animals hunted, the rarer the species becomes and the more prized by the hunter. The motivation is selfishness and self-aggrandizement, and there's nothing good or decent about their conduct.
Andrew Page
Campaign Manager-Hunting
The Humane Society of the United States
Washington, D.C.

I was horrified by "Slaughter in the Jungle," which brought me to tears, having had the privilege of witnessing these amazing creatures firsthand. I was quite disturbed at the finger pointed at hunters and hunting as the primary threat to endangered species. As a former PETA member, animal lover, conservationist and yes, a hunter, I assure you the thugs who are killing endangered species are not hunters, but murderous poachers, hungry families and those who simply have no concept of what conservation is. Africa is an amazing continent but, sadly, many areas such as Congo, Darfur and Zimbabwe are plagued by a complex web of political, social and economic issues that is hard for Americans to comprehend. Unfortunately, the innocent suffer the most.
Diane Mothersell
Sacramento, Calif.

The Cliche Crisis
Gregory Pence certainly opened up a can of worms at our dinner table ("Let's Think Outside the Box of Bad Cliches," My Turn, Aug. 6). I cannot help but wonder if e-mail, instant messenging and text messages have something to do with the decline of strong writing skills. One can convey his or her innermost feelings in a style that is made up of mostly symbols and abbreviations. I must note one small exception to Pence's ranting. We who live on Lake Winnipesaukee all year find ourselves stuck in traffic jams on summer Sunday nights. This is when tourists, often from Massachusetts, begin migrating home. We have a mass exodus.
Nancy M. Chapman
Moultonborough, N.H.

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