It was only 10 days ago that IRF Vice-President Wayne Lotter was in a meeting with UNESCO and DRC government officials in Kinshasa trying to improve the protection of Ranger colleagues whilst operating in Virunga NP.
Jan. 24, 2011, CONGO – Three rangers and five Congolese soldiers have been killed during a violent attack on their patrol vehicle in Congo’s Virunga National Park. A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit the early morning patrol when it fell into an ambush approximately one kilometer north of Mabenga, just inside the park border. The rangers were being deployed along a road that passes through the national park in an attempt to secure a safe passage for the public. The attackers, who escaped on foot, are believed to be FDLR Rwandan militia, an illegal movement believed to include the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The attack is thought to have been carried out in retaliation for the destruction of two of their camps by park rangers in December 2010.
The attack took place about 100 km north of the city of Goma. This is the worst attack on Virunga Park patrols in over a year. Park rangers and regular army units have been working together to secure the area within the national park known to be heavily frequented by FDLR militia.”We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleagues who were killed in their efforts to protect the public from illegal armed groups” said Virunga Park Director Emmanuel de Merode. “130 of Virunga’s rangers have died since the beginning of the war in 1996, but the park’s staff remains determined to protect the park”
The rangers will be buried tomorrow morning at the park cemetary on the banks of the Rutshuru River. The injured are in a critical state and have been moved to Rutshuru hospital.
Some 400 Park Rangers protect Virunga National Park in eastern DRC, a region affected by a 12-year civil war and political instability. The Park is home to mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants and rhinos, among other wildlife. The Rangers have remained active in protecting these parks, four of which have been classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Poaching, wildlife trafficking and habitat destruction remain the key threats to the survival of the wildlife in the park.
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