January 12, 2009
Ranger Safari Kakule was killed by a rebel forces during an attack on the evening of January 8 in Congo's Virunga National Park. Safari, along with six other rangers, were attacked while on patrol. They were "far outnumbered" by armed members of the Mai Mai militia according to Wildlife Direct.
Safari's body was carried out of the forest by his colleagues and brought to Kyondo. He leaves behind a widow and three children.
"Safari was such a hardworking and dedicated ranger, with a great personality," said Gladys Kalema, a gorilla veterinarian who trained Safari last year in Bwindi, Uganda. "May God rest him in peace."
Safari Kakule. Photo courtesy of WildlifeDirect.
"Safari was a brave, dedicated ranger who gave his life to the gorillas. His untimely death is a reminder to us all of the ultimate sacrifices that rangers make in the name of conservation. We can never thank him enough for what he has done for the gorillas. Rest in peace Safari."
More than 120 rangers have been killed in the line of duty in Congo over the past decade due to the ongoing war in the eastern part of the country. Rangers have had to flee parts of Virunga National Park several times over the past year due to incursions by armed militias and violence.
There are around 700 mountain gorillas left in the world -- 380 in Virunga and 320 in neighboring Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Mountain gorillas are generally well-protected relative to the more common lowland gorillas in other parts of Africa.
Until the recent troubles, Virunga had been seen as one of the few bright spots in the eastern Congo. Rangers have been working to "habituate" gorillas in hopes of again attracting high-paying ecotourists to eastern Congo. In neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, visitors pay more than $300 for a chance to spend a few minutes seeing gorillas in their natural habitat.
Help gorilla rangers: WildlifeDirect | Wildlife Conservation Society Ranger Program
Rangers return to Virunga and begin gorilla census
(12/01/2008) After fifteen months rangers have been allowed to return to Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A deal was worked out between insurgents and the government to allow rangers to return and begin overseeing the park's operations and monitoring its wildlife once again. Virunga is famous as one of the world's last stands for the mountain gorilla.
Missing gorilla rangers return safely in Congo, one dies of cholera in camp
(11/06/2008) All of the missing rangers have now been accounted for after they fled Virunga Park Headquarters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The headquarters was seized by rebels led by Laurent Nkunda on October 26th.
39 rangers missing in Virunga Park after headquarters overtaken by rebels
(10/30/2008) Five days after rebels occupied Virunga Park’s headquarters, thirty-nine wildlife rangers are still unaccounted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the takeover, which included fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels, many of the rangers fled into the forest.
Gorilla refuge falls into rebel hands in Congo; Park HQ seized
(10/26/2008) Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo seized the headquarters of Virunga National Park — a refuge home to 200 of the world's 700 remaining endangered mountain gorillas — according to a statement by park officials. Some 50 rangers fled into the forests and abandoned the park station after intense fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda.
Rebels invade Congo gorilla sanctuary, park rangers evacuated
(09/04/2007) Guerillas have invaded Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, causing park rangers to flee, and leaving critically endangered mountain gorillas at great risk, reports Wildlife Direct, a group that promotes wildlife protection through blogs by rangers and conservationists.
U.N. sends team to investigate gorilla killings
(08/10/2007) The U.N. said it will send a team of experts to probe the killings of critically endangered mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Four gorillas were shot "execution-style" last month, while three others have been killed so far this year. Rangers believe illegal charcoal harvesters from Goma are to blame.
Rare gorillas slaughtered in mass killing
(07/24/2007) At least four critically endangered gorillas have been killed in Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park. National Geographic News reports they were shot "execution-style". Illegal charcoal harvesters are leading suspects in the slaying. Two other gorillas are missing and feared dead.
Congo guerillas threaten to kill rare gorillas
(05/21/2007) Fresh off killing a park ranger, a group of Congo guerillas said they will slaughter highly endangered mountain gorillas in Congo's Virunga National Park if their demands for immunity aren't met, says WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation organization active in the region.