Virunga, which was designated a World Heritage Center in 1979, has earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous national parks in Africa. It is home to unparalleled biodiversity, including lions, elephants, and the rare mountain gorillas, which have been threatened by habitat loss from farming and unrest stemming from DRC’s two civil wars—one in the 1960s and the other from 1997 to 2003. The park remains vulnerable to attacks by anti-government rebels and local militia groups, problems compounded by elephant poaching, hunting for bush meat, unlicensed fishing, and tree cutting for charcoal.
Rachel Masika Baraka, 25, was killed on May 11 while trying to defend two British tourists from armed men who were kidnapping them. Baraka is one of more than 170 rangers who have died during the past two decades protecting wildlife in the park and visitors who come to see the animals, particularly its famed mountain gorillas.
Source: National Geographic