17 Rangers attacked in an ambush in Virunga National Park.
17 Rangers attacked in an ambush in Virunga National Park.: On 24th April 2020, 17 rangers were attacked in an ambush in Virunga National Park, located in the northeastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.. The rangers died as they attempted to rescue civilians who had been attached by a ferociously violent rebel group in the park.
According to Cosma Wilungula, the director of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, the rangers were on their way back to the park when they came across a civilian vehicle that had been attacked. The rangers were then ambushed by a group rebels as they fought to save the civilians, who have no link to the national park.
The attack that took place at 11 am on a Friday morning, on Route Nationale 2 close to the park’s headquarters in Rumangabo. Among the dead include 13 rangers from Virunga national park and four civilians. Three other park rangers were severely injured during the attack, with one other in critical condition. In additional to this, two civilians were also injured during the cross fire between the rangers and the rebel militia forces. All have been transferred to nearby medical facilities in Goma where they are receiving proper treatment.
The deceased rangers add to the 175 out of 700 park rangers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect both the wildlife and tourists in Virunga national park.
Although no rebel group has come forward to claim responsibility for the recent attack, officials in the park believe that rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda are responsible for the attack.
According to the park’s officials, about 60 members of the Hutu rebel group ambushed a convoy of civilians that was being protected by 15 rangers as they made their way back home through the park.
About Virunga National Park.
Spanning over a radius of 7,800 square kilometers, Virunga national park is the one of the largest national parks on the African Continent. It is also the oldest protected areas in Africa following its establishment in 1925, when it was officially declared a national park by the Belgian colonial government.
The national park extends to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwenzori National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Virunga national park is located in Goma, in the North Kivu province of Congo.
In 1979, the park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is popular for its rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna species, and being home of the endangered mountain gorillas. In addition to this, the park also shelters a variety of wildlife species such as forest elephants, okapi, giant pangolins, leopards and so many more.
Virunga National Park has about 706 bird species, with commonly sighted species like the black-throated wattle-eye, chin-spot batis, mountain illadopsis, , malachite sunbird, collared sunbird, variable sunbird, yellow white-eye, Mackinnon’s shrike, Doherty’s bush shrike, the northern puff back to mention but a few.
The national park has had a number of challenges, with the most visible ones being large-scale deforestation, charcoal burning, poaching and political unrest caused by militia rebel groups.
In 2014, the park’s director and internationally renowned Belgian conservationist, Emmanuel de Merode, was attacked and wounded by an unknown group of assailants in the national park.
Later in May 2018, Virunga national park was closed to tourists for eight months following the murder of a female park ranger during her line of duty, and the kidnapping of two British tourists along with their driver. However, the three were successfully rescued park officials in collaboration with both government and international military forces.
The recent attack comes after all tourism activities in Virunga had been postponed on March 23, in relation to the recent coronavirus outbreak. According to researchers in the park, the Covid-19 virus poses a great risk on the lives of primates in the park, as they have a high risk of contracting the deadly virus.
Despite the occasional unrest in the Goma area of Congo, all tourism activities in Virunga National Park remain safe for tourists, with the park management prioritizing the safety of its visitors. In addition to this, the park has a number of security measure set in place to ensure that both wildlife and tourists in the park are protected; and some of these security measures include; the use of hi-tech drones to conduct aerial surveillance in the park, conducting regular patrols within and around the park’s boundaries among others. To add on this, all tourists are transferred in a security convoy to and from the national park in order to ensure their safety during their visit to the park.
Virunga National Park receives about 17,000 tourists annually, thus creating 120 direct jobs through the park itself and approximately 400 jobs which have been indirectly created through community initiatives that are linked to eco-tourism in the park.
In addition to the above accomplishments in Virunga, the park has successfully completed the construction of 20 hospitals, nine schools and two health clinics. About 5000 homes are currently being powered by the park’s two online hydroelectricity projects. Also 30 percent of all proceeds collected from tourism activities in the national park are donated to the surrounding communities near the park.
In conclusion: Visitors planning to visit Virunga national park should either make their bookings directly through the park’s main website or through a trusted tour operator company like Explore Rwanda Tours.