Funeral for a slain Virunga ranger. Photo courtesy of Gorilla.cd.
Mai-Mai PARECO rebels attacked a ranger patrol in Virunga National Park killing two park staff and one government soldier, reports Gorilla.cd, the park’s official web site.
The attack occurred Friday in Mwiga Bay near the village of Vitshumbi on Lake Edward. Three government soldiers were “seriously wounded”. Five rebels were found dead after the incident.
Emmanuel, the Chief Warden of Virunga National Park for the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN), writes in a blog post that attacks have been on the rise in the area.
“With government forces focused on M23 in the southern part of the park, the armed groups in the center of Virunga have dramatically stepped up efforts to poach for ivory and bushmeat, fish illegally on Lake Edward, and loot the local population.”
The park’s blog post notes that the children of one of the slain rangers are now orphans because their mother died six months ago. The park is working to raise money for them.
“I sincerely hope we can all come together again to support those who have paid the ultimate price for defending Virunga National Park,” writes Emmanuel. “Even in peace-time, life in Eastern Congo is incredibly hard, so it is difficult to put into words what a ranger family goes through when they lose the head of their household, a husband, father, and usually a family’s only income.”
The attack pushes the ranger death toll in Virunga beyond 130 since 1996.