Two rangers have been killed in the Virunga National Park in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a press release from the management of the park. Both rangers, park management say, were killed on March 12 and 13, 2016.
“Our rangers continue to bear the brunt of the instability in eastern Congo. They stand fearlessly on the frontline of the protection of civilians and their resources knowing that they are at risk of extreme violence. The situation is deplorable and we must honour their sacrifice by attempting to reduce this threat of violence. These rangers were killed in situations that may amount to war crimes in any other conflict,” says Emmanuel de Merode, Director of Virunga National Park.
The Mai-mai militia, the press release states staged the attack on rangers positioned on the shores of Lake Edward in the Central Sector of the park. “The coordinated attacks were carried out by over 120 rebels, beginning in the early hours of Saturday, March 12, 2016” park official say.
“We call on all stakeholders to assist us in this matter by supporting Virunga and it’s rangers in their continued efforts,” declared De Merode.
Figures from the Virunga National Park indicate that about 150 rangers have died in the past decade with about ten of those in the last year alone.
Park officials argue these rate of loss is unsustainable. “Despite the wide progress we make here in many areas, we cannot sustain these kind of losses in what is still the most dangerous conservation job in the world.”
The Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga), is a 7,800-square-kilometre (3,000 sq mi) that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and 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. 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.