One person was killed and 14 were injured in clashes near a gorilla sanctuary in DR Congo where there has been mounting friction between park guards and local Pygmies, sources said Friday.
The violence occurred near the Kahuzi Biega National Park, a UNESCO heritage site in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that is a haven for the world’s largest gorilla species.
“A conservation patrol which was pursuing two poachers was ambushed on Wednesday by Pygmies armed with machetes and bows and arrows,” park spokesman Hubert Mulongoy said.
“Thirteen park wardens were wounded in the clash, three of them seriously,” he said. “One of the seriously injured had his fingers severed by a machete.”
Separately, Ntavuna Cizungu, a representative of a Pygmy community that lives on the edge of the park, told AFP that a Pygmy named lwaboshi Simba was shot dead during the confrontation “and died immediately.”
Another Pygmy was injured, he said.
Mulongoy said there had been a “resurgence of tension in the past few days between indigenous people and the park.”
In April, a warden was killed in a clash, the park said, denying that this episode was associated with the death of a Pygmy the previous day.
The Pygmies are angry about being denied access to Kahuzi Biega.
The park says they illegally entered the sanctuary between August and October last year, and have been carrying out acts of “deforestation” since then.
The park wardens are chiefly recruited among former soldiers and police and include a number of Pygmies.
Kahuzi Biega, named after two extinct volcanoes, is the only place in the world where visitors can see eastern lowland gorillas in the wild, the park says on its website.
The 6,000-square-kilometre (2,300-square-mile) haven, created in 1970, is a magnet for well-heeled tourists, providing an important source of revenue for the DRC.