Virunga National Park, Africa’s most biodiverse protected area, exists to protect 1/3 of the world’s wild mountain gorillas, over one thousand species of mammal, bird, reptile, and amphibian, and provide a brighter future to more than four million people affected by conflict.
It is with immense sadness that Virunga National Park confirms the deaths of 6 Park Rangers in an attack by armed assailants on the morning of Sunday 10th January 2021. 1 other Ranger was seriously wounded in the assault.
The Ranger has been evacuated to a hospital in Goma and his injuries are no longer considered life-threatening.
At approximately 07.30am local time, the Rangers were ambushed while on foot patrol inside the Park. The attack took place near Kabuendo, which is located near the border of the Park, in the Central sector, between Nyamilima and Niamitwitwi.
Virunga Park-Ranger and his friend-gorilla
Preliminary investigations indicate that the Rangers were taken by surprise and had no opportunity to defend themselves and that those responsible for the attack are local Mai-Mai groups.
The identities of the Rangers who lost their lives are:
-BURHANI ABDOU Surumwe, aged 30 years
-KAMATE MUNDUNAENDA Alexis, aged 25 years
-MANENO KATAGHALIRWA Reagan, aged 27 years
-KIBANJA BASHEKERE Eric, aged 28 years
-PALUKU BUDOYI Innocent, aged 28 years
-NZABONIMPA NTAMAKIRIRO Prince, aged 27 years
Virunga National Park deeply regrets the tragic loss of life among its Rangers, who work tirelessly and with the dedication to protect both the Park and the neighboring communities from the tyranny of armed groups.
Their sacrifice will not be forgotten nor be in vain.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Virunga National Park are with the families and friends of all the victims, as well as the injured Ranger.
The Rangers of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature are agents of the Congolese State. They do not have military status and their actions do not fall under the law of conflict. All efforts will be undertaken to bring the perpetrators to justice and sustain the rule of law within the Park.
Virunga National Park remains committed to delivering development initiatives that benefit local people and the wider region, and to working in partnership with local communities to bring peace and prosperity to many millions of people whose lives have for too long been blighted by conflict and the activities of armed groups.
The Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga), in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, is 7,800-square-kilometres (3,000 sq mi) stretching from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
The park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979.
In recent years poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population.
Virunga National Park-Rangers
The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), and its partner the Virunga Foundation.
The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) is a Congolese governmental partner tasked with the protection and conservation of the Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Members of the ICCN are charged with the overall protection of the parks and the endangered Mountain Gorilla.
And I mean…“Every day when the patrols set out, we know that they may come under fire. We know we may lose someone or we may be killed ourselves. This is not an easy profession. Losing your friends and colleagues is very painful. But we chose to do this, and we know the risks,” said Innocent Mburanumwe, the deputy director of Virunga national park.
Getting a job as a ranger in the Virunga National Park is not easy.
First are the challenges of brute force: running several miles while carrying a heavy pack, and climbing 14,000-foot mountains in less than a day.
There are tests of survival skills and orienteering through one of the densest forests on the planet.
Then come the more nuanced abilities: marksmanship, spotting small camouflaged objects through binoculars, and an exam to identify and describe various animals and plants.
And finally, there’s the interview, where the selection panel tries to get to the root of the most important question: how much do you really care?
Is this just a job to you, or something more, something for which you’re willing to risk your life?
When spending time with the animals, the battle-tested, elite Virunga rangers soften, smiling reflexively beneath the surgical masks required to minimize the chances of disease transmission.
“These animals are so amazing,” one ranger says. “It was a switch in my mind – after seeing them, I knew I had to do everything possible to protect them.”
Virunga National Park has always been dangerous!
On December 27, 1985, a staff member found Dian Fossey’s half-naked body in her cabin in Virunga National Park.
The murder was never solved.
It is a shame for humanity that armed guards are needed to protect the last specimens of the mountain gorillas.
We mourn the death of the gangers very much. It is a crime of the worst kind that must be punished as severely as possible
My best regards to all, Venus