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.
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 an exceptional ranger, who had worked on the Gorilla Organization project at Mount Tshiaberimu for over three years,” wrote Tuver, a colleague and friend of Safari, on the Tshiaberimu gorilla blog. “Recently Safari had taken part in gorilla health monitoring training organized by the Gorilla Organization through Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). He was expected to play a very important role in protecting the gorillas of Tshiaberimu.”
“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.
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