KINSHASHA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Habitat loss may be the cause of some violent attacks by chimpanzees on humans in the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, scientists say.
At least one person, a child, has been killed in recent months in a chimpanzee attack just south of Virunga National Park in the area around the city of Goma, park officials said.
The park lies on the border between the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.
A woman attempted to scare the chimp away to protect the child but the chimp reacted aggressively, said Alison Mollon of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Germany, which works in partnership with the park.
"It generally seems that where people react aggressively, the result is aggressive behavior in return," she said.
Mistrust of chimpanzees has been heightened by local media reports suggesting as many as 10 people have been killed and 17 injured by chimps, NewScientist.com reported.
Efforts to improve the situation by educating locals in behaviors that will minimize the occurrence of violent confrontations and by habituating chimps to humans are being made difficult by the armed conflict between M23 rebels and the DRC government, which began in April.
"Human-wildlife conflict is an extremely serious issue in Virunga, as it is across Africa and elsewhere," the park's chief warden Emmanuel de Merode said, citing an ongoing surge in human population in the area.