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Head of Virunga National Park shot in ambush


The chief warden of the Virunga National Park is in a serious but stable condition after being shot four times in an ambush

The chief warden of the Virunga National Park is in a serious but stable condition after being shot four times in an ambush as he drove through the park.

Emmanuel de Merode’s car was attacked as he drove unescorted from the city of Goma to the town of Rumangabo, where the park’s headquarters are located. Four bullets hit the Belgian in the stomach and the legs, though rangers managed to get him to a hospital in Goma, where he is currently recovering.

A spokesperson for the Virunga National Park, Joanna Natasegara, said: “He is in a very stable condition and in good spirits.”

At the same time, however, she declined to comment on the possible motives for the attack, though over recent months, rangers working to protect the Virunga’s flora and fauna have been subject to repeated attacks from outlawed armed groups roaming the park.

In all, around 140 rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the last 10 years alone, highlighting the risks of the job. Despite such dangers, however, De Merode has worked tirelessly to keep the park, which is home to around a quarter of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas as well as to elephant and okapi, free from human exploitation.

Most recently, the head warden has been leading the opposition to plans to start exploring for oil within the park’s boundaries, while he has also been unswerving in his efforts to protect the gorilla habitat from illegal logging.

Gorilla Organization staff in DR Congo have confirmed that conservationists in the country are shocked at this latest attack, but are more determined than ever to carry on with their vital work.