VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK, Democratic Republic of the Congo, April 10, 2018 (ENS) – Five Virunga National Park rangers and their driver died in an ambush Monday in the Central Sector of the park. One ranger survived and was treated for his injuries.

Park officials say the attack by Mai-Mai militia was the deadliest on Virunga staff in the park’s known history and brings the total number of Rangers killed in action to 175.

Groups that fall under the umbrella term “Mai-Mai” include armed forces led by warlords, traditional tribal elders, village heads, and politically motivated resistance fighters.

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Virunga National Park Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode (Photo courtesy Virunga National Park)

No group has claimed responsibility. Authorities believe it was likely one of the militia groups that are active in the park.

Chief Warden Emmanuel de Merode said, “We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our colleagues yesterday. Virunga has lost some extraordinarily brave Rangers who were deeply committed to working in service of their communities. It is unacceptable that Virunga’s Rangers continue to pay the highest price in defense of our common heritage and we are devastated that their lives have been cut short in this way.”

“We send our deepest condolences to the families, wives and children they leave behind and remain committed to creating a better future for eastern Congo,” said de Merode.

Those killed were:
Ranger Jean de Dieu BYAMUNGU, aged 25
Ranger Barthelemie KAKULE MULEWA, aged 28
Ranger Théodore KASEREKA PRINCE, aged 25
Ranger Liévin MUMBERE KASUMBA, aged 28
Ranger Kananwa SIBOMANA, aged 22.
Driver ILA MURANDA, aged 30.

Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, covers 7,800-square-kilometres (3,000 sq miles) stretching from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North.

The park borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.

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Virunga rangers can be female. Angèle, left, 25, has been a park ranger since 2014, and now work as an assistant instructor in Ishango helping new recruits through their training. (Photo courtesy Virunga National Park)

Virunga National Park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and has been a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979.

In recent years poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. Endangered Mountain gorillas live in the park, some 20,000 hippopotamuses inhabit the rivers and birds from Siberia spend the winter there.

Virunga National Park is located in the center of the Albertine Rift, of the Great Rift Valley. In the southern part of the Park, there are seven volcanoes, among them, two of the most active volcanoes of Africa – Nyamuragira and nearby Nyiragongo – together responsible for two-fifths of the historic volcanic eruptions on the African continent.

The Albertine Rift also contains more endemic vertebrate species than any other region of the African continent. The park contains 218 mammal species, 706 bird species, 109 reptile species and 78 amphibian species.

The park serves as refuge to 22 primate species including three great ape species – a third of the world population of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), the eastern lowland gorilla or Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and the eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthi).

The savannah zones of the Park contain a diverse population of ungulates, and the density of wildlife is one of the highest on the earth

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.

The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) is a Congolese governmental partner tasked with the protection and conservation of the Virunga National Park.

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