Protecting Congo’s mountain gorillas has cost the lives of 180 park rangers

Recently it’s been reported that five park rangers and a driver have been ambushed and killed while they were protecting endangered mountain gorillas in Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park. This is a world heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorilla and ranger of Virunga NP
Mountain gorilla and ranger of Virunga NP. Photo:CATERS NEWS AGENCY

The conservation of the mountain gorilla in the Congo, in this park, has been a success but it appears that it has cost the lives of 180 park rangers. An interesting aspect of these killings is that they have been attributed to a group of armed militia in the Congo’s lawless Eastern province near the border with Rwanda. This group is called the Mai-Mai.

The reason why they are killing park rangers is because they are fighting for control of natural resources and poaching rights. It seems extraordinary but that’s the way it is. Perhaps they want to collect the entrance charge to this famous National Park!

I’m being facetious but the amount of human death is extraordinary as is the amount of success in protecting the gorilla. The authorities have boosted the mountain gorilla population to more than 1000 from the 300 that they believed existed in the late 1990s. The population of the forest elephant is also rising.

It’s good to report conservation success on the African continent. A success in terms of wildlife and a catastrophe in terms of the park rangers and their families. These are brave people, deeply committed to protecting the animals of this park in the service of their communities.