by Chris Bolte
When he heard that an entire family of gorillas had been murdered over charcoal in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Robert Williams, of Nederland, Colo., stepped up efforts to expand production of a little-known alternative fuel.
The gorillas were slaughtered in 2007 by a group of African rebels who support themselves on charcoal production. But this charcoal isn’t pulled from the ground. Instead, it’s made from trees. According to Paulin Ngobobo, a Virunga park ranger who describes the process on the gorilla.cd webpage, first, a tree is cut down, the trunk not always being used, then the branches are stripped and stacked into a dome shape that is covered in mud. This mud separates the wood from the atmosphere, which causes the wood to burn stronger, making the charcoal. “It’s important to note that it takes 6 kilograms of fuel wood to make a single kilogram of charcoal,” Williams said, “It’s a terribly inefficient process.”