Yesterday morning, 3 wildlife rangers and 5 soldiers working in Virunga National Park were killed by the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). These 8 were killed and 3 more wounded when their vehicle was fired on by FDLR rebels with rocket launchers. Park director Emmanuel de Merode told the AFP that it was the most serious incident to occur in Virunga National Park in the past 12 months.
Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Virunga National Park is no stranger to conflict. In the past 15 years, the park has lost over 130 wildlife rangers to clashes with rebels and government soldiers using the park as a staging ground. According to the DRC’s wildlife agency, ICCN, the attack was likely in retaliation for the destruction of two FDLR camps in the park by wildlife rangers last month.
Home to a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds, Virunga National Park is one of Africa’s most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site.
Recently, Virunga National Park made headlines due to plans by oil companies to begin exploration in the park. A spokesperson for one of the oil companies stated that the companies could bolster security in the park, but conservation organizations and the UN have condemned the plan to drill in the park.
“The eight rangers will be buried at Mai ya Moto, our burial site where we honor those who have died in our efforts to protect the park. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased and with the wounded in hospital,” the official website of Virunga National Park said in an announcement.
(01/20/2011) WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN have all recently expressed concerns about two oil companies’ plan to explore for oil in Africa’s oldest and famed Virunga National Park. Home to a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa’s most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site. But according to WWF plans by oil companies SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum could jeopardize not only the wildlife and ecosystems, but also local people.
(01/27/2009) The population of critically endangered mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park increased 12.5 percent in the past 16 months according to a census conducted by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN). 81 gorillas now live permanently in the park, up from 72 in August 2007.
(01/12/2009) A wildlife ranger has paid the ultimate price in the effort to protect endangered mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo, reports Wildlife Direct, a group that promotes wildlife protection through blogs by rangers and conservationists. 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.