Rangers protecting mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park ambushed; 6 killed

Rangers protecting mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park ambushed; 6 killed

Outdoors

Rangers protecting mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park ambushed; 6 killed

 

Rangers put their lives on the line each day while protecting wildlife and communities within the Virunga National Park, famous for its mountain gorillas, and Monday became a sad reminder of just how dangerous a job they do.

“Virunga National Park is deeply saddened to confirm reports of an attack on our staff today,” the park in the Democractic Republic of the Congo announced Monday. “Five Virunga rangers and a staff driver were killed during an ambush in the Central Sector of the Park. A sixth ranger was also wounded.”

The team was driving beween sectors of Lulimba and Ishasha, near the border of Uganda, when a group of militia men opened fired on their vehicles at around 6 a.m. local time, according to The Telegraph and Agence France Presse.

Cosma Wilungula, director of DRC’s national parks, told The Telegraph the attackers were from one of the country’s “Mai Mai” militia groups.

More than 150 rangers have lost their lives while protecting Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park created primarily to protect the mountain gorillas living there.

Eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos also find refuge in the park.

“Ranger outposts are regularly attacked and it not unknown for rangers and militias to fight battles with automatic weapons to for several hours,” The Telegraph wrote. “Emmanuel de Merode, the park’s Belgian director, was shot and wounded in a road ambush between the park and Goma, the capital of North Kivu, in 2014.”

The AFP reported that the park is located in DR Congo’s North Kivu province “where armed groups are fighting for control of territorial and natural resources, and poaching is a major threat.”

Photo of rangers at top by Brent Stirton/Getty Images. Photo of mountain gorillas courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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