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Ranger killed at Mount Tshiaberimu
12 January 2009

It is with great sadness, that the Gorilla Organization received confirmation of the death of ranger Safari Kakule. Safari was at Mount Tshiaberimu with six other rangers during the evening of 8 January when they were attacked by rebel militia without warning. They defended their position, managing to detain a rebel officer, but the attack was extremely violent and the rangers were far outnumbered. As they retreated from their position, Safari was fatally hit by the attackers’ gunfire.

Safari was an exceptional ranger, who had worked on the Gorilla Organization project at Mount Tshiaberimu for over three years. Recently Safari had taken part in gorilla health monitoring training organised by the Gorilla Organization through Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). He was expected to play a very important role in protecting the gorillas of Tshiaberimu.

His body was carried out of the forest by his colleagues and brought to Kyondo, several hours from where the attack took place. From there he was taken back to Lubero, to a final resting place at his family home. Safari leaves a widow and three children.

Gorilla veterinarian, Gladys Kalema recalls Safari’s visit to Bwindi where he took part in gorilla health monitoring training towards the end of last year.  “Safari was such a hardworking and dedicated ranger, with a great personality. May God rest him in peace”.

Fifteen rangers were dispatched during the early hours of 9 January. After a long and arduous journey to the remote area of Mount Tshiaberimu they arrived safely. The rangers will help the Mount Tshiaberimu team strengthen their position, which remains extremely fragile. ICCN Director Norbert Mushenzi, head ranger, Atamato and Gorilla Organization project manager and Tshiaberimu Conservator, Jean-Claude Kyungu are all on site, conducting the investigation and organising the emergency reinforcements.

The rebel that was arrested by the rangers during the attack has been questioned and several leads on the perpetrators of the attack have been identified.

About Mount Tshiaberimu

Mount Tshiaberimu is a stunning area in the northern annex of the Virunga National Park, DR Congo, which has long been an area of scientific interest. In 1996 a tiny population of just 16 rare gorillas were found at Mount Tshiaberimu and the ICCN believed that they would soon be extinct if no conservation action was taken. The gorillas are currently classified as eastern lowland gorillas, but there are morphologically different to those elsewhere and may yet be reclassified as a distinct sub-species.

This project combines conservation, research, education and community development to protect these precious gorillas and their habitat whilst improving the standard of living for the local communities.

 

for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org