Virunga National Park, six rangers killed while protecting gorillas

Five Virunga National Park rangers and a driver fell victim to an ambush while patrolling the most important wildlife sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

170 rangers have been killed over the past 20 years in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and home to some of the last mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). It seems like a war bulletin, but it’s a silent war fought far from our eyes but on which the survival of these huge and beautiful animals depends. On 9 April the park witnessed the worst attack to date that killed five rangers and a driver, aged between 22 and 30, in an ambush. Another ranger survived but was severely wounded.

Ranger a guardia del parco di Virunga in Congo
“We know they could kill us. But we’ve chosen this job. We know the risks we’re facing”, said Innocent Mburanumwe, deputy director of Virunga National Park © Brent Stirton/Edit by Getty Images

Rangers risk their life for gorillas

Rangers and other staff members at the Park, led by director Emmanuel de Mérode, risk their life every day to protect mountain gorillas and the precious biodiversity of the nature reserve from poachers’ attacks. “We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our colleagues,” said de Mérode. “Virunga has lost some extraordinarily brave rangers who were deeply committed to working in service of their communities. It is unacceptable that Virunga’s rangers continue to pay the highest price in defence of our common heritage”.

Who is behind the attack

The park’s wardens believe the attack was organised by Mai Mai people’s militias. Indeed, many outside the park dislike what rangers do at Virunga, from rebel armed group and poachers to people in the coal industry. Poaching and terrorism are closely linked and the profits from illegal wildlife hunting often need to finance armed groups’ activities.

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