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Ranger dies at 26 to protect gorillas at Virunga National Park

A silent war is going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing the last endangered mountain gorillas and rangers who try to protect them.

Yet another ranger, Patrick Muhayirwa, 26, has been killed in an ambush of Mai-Mai militia. According to the park’s authorities, the ranger was patrolling the Virunga National Park with the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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An injured ranger, Virunga National Park © Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A second ranger, Jean Claude Muhindo Mastaki, was seriously injured in the attack. He received medical attention and is now in stable conditions. The Park has said that 150 rangers have died in service to Virunga National Park since 1990. It’s a silent war going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, between militias and rangers supported by the army.

Violence perpetrated during patrolling operations is ever more frequent in Africa’s oldest park, home to mountain gorillas and elephants.

The last refuge for gorillas

The Park is home to the last 800 mountain gorillas of the planet. Mountain gorillas are beautiful, tame creatures that make them victims of the greed of traffickers and trophy hunters. And the more their population drops, the more ferocious the hunt gets.

Ranger Muhayirwa was a young and highly dedicated ranger and the Park is in deep mourning for his loss. We wish to extend our sincerest condolences to his family. His death is a tragic loss for Virunga National Park, and we are ever grateful for his service to his country,” commented Park Director, Emmanuel de Merode. “Our thoughts are also with Ranger Mastaki, his wife and four children, and we wish him a swift and full recovery.”

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One of the funerals at the Virunga National Park

Why rangers risk their lives

In October two twin calves were born for the first time in the park (they unfortunately didn’t make it), and a few days after a female calf was born, which now is in good conditions. This is why rangers risk their lives to protect the last mountain gorillas. As long as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are some the most profitable activities, after drugs and weapons, ever more rangers and gorillas will be at risk. And so many families will be forced to grieve.

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