RUMANGABO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The habitat of rare mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being threatened by charcoal production, officials said.
Thousands of kilns mounded from dirt within the 3,000-square-mile Virunga National Park produce charcoal for rebel forces. The park is home to about 200 endangered mountain gorillas.
The rebels fund their fighting by selling the charcoal to refugees who fled the violence of the region and now live near the city of Goma, park ranger Jean Bosco Bichamakara told The Times of London in a story reported Saturday.
To break the reliance on charcoal, villagers and refugees are being urged to use presses, paid for by the Rwandan wildlife service, that turn briquettes leaf mulch, rice husks and other organic waste into fuel briquettes, Bichamakara said. The rangers buy the villagers' surplus briquettes and sell them in Goma for a third the price of charcoal.
"There are 550 presses being used now," Bichamakara said. "Our objective is to have 1,000 by the end of the year and 6,000 by the end of 2011, all to diminish the threat to our environment."