A combination of love and guns is helping rebuild an endangered gorilla community in the jungles of war-torn eastern DRC.
Forest park rangers face many dangers in their quest to protect the mountain gorillas threatened with extinction
The park rangers have paid a heavy price to protect Virunga park, about 130 were killed between 1996 and 2013 during the country’s conflict with M23 Tutsi rebels,
Armed groups prosper in the park thanks to trade in charcoal, burning swathes of equatorial forest every year in the heart of the mountain gorillas’ natural habitat.
Augusto Innocent Mburanumwe, Senior Curator at the Virunga park explains,
“These poachers are heavily armed, we also have this idea of being able to train our people to be able to face these poachers. I can testify today, I do not think a poacher manages to hunt or to intimidate our brave guard. “
The sacrifice of rangers has helped more than quadruple the number of mountain gorillas: in 10 years their numbers have grown from 200 to 880, according to the last census in July.
“The guards are not well paid. If the government could raise their wages, this could encourage them to work well. They will be able to properly protect this endangered ecosystem”, said Augusto Innocent Mburanumwe.
Park managers work with traditional chiefs and local religious leaders to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.