Yesterday, May 24, Virunga National Park sent a team of rangers back to Bukima in an attempt to reestablish the monitoring of habituated mountain gorillas that range in that area. The hope was to locate the gorillas after several weeks without contact. That last few weeks have been volatile, with rebel movements within the National Park and intense fighting raging between rebel militias and the Congolese army on the park’s edge in Bikenge and Jomba.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The reconnaissance team fell into an ambush approximately a kilometer from the Bukima patrol post. Fortunately, all rangers and community members who redeployed survived the ambush and the rangers have reoccupied the patrol post in an attempt to retain a park presence.
Amidst all the uncertainty in the last weeks, one thing is certain – the rangers are very courageous.
IGCP is working with our coalition members African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature to secure emergency funding directly for Virunga National Park to help the park cope with the the current situation and recover from it once the fighting stops.
And all of us here are hoping the fighting stops soon and the park can once again be a haven for the critically endangered mountain gorillas and not a haven for militias.Map of the southern sector of Virunga National Park, including Mikeno Sector in green, which is habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Map by Virunga National Park and as posted on http://gorilla.cd.