- Last month Mai Mai militia attacked a Virunga park vehicle carrying tourists from the city of Goma, killing park ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka.
- Immediately following the incident, Virunga National Park said it was closing to visitors until June 4. Now officials are saying the park will be closed to tourists through the end of the year, until the security situation is more under control.
- Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. It is best known for its population of mountain gorillas.
In the midst of ongoing violence against rangers and a kidnapping of two British tourists, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced it is closing to visitors for the rest of 2018.
“It is abundantly clear that the Virunga is deeply affected by insecurity and that this will be the case for some time,” park director Emmanuel de Merode said in a statement. “For Virunga to be safely visited, much more robust measures are necessary than in the past.”
Virunga — Africa’s oldest national park — is best known for its population of endangered mountain gorillas, which are a major tourist draw and an important source of revenue for conservation efforts in the embattled protected area, which has been hard hit by incursions by militias, poachers, and charcoal producers. Some 180 rangers have been killed in Virunga over the past twenty years.
Merode said the park would be closed until a thorough security review has been conducted and ranger forces have been reinforced.