Bahait Lukoo Emmanuel—also known as Keita—brings courage and perseverance to Team Re:wild and we love him for that! As head of the southern sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he is responsible for responding to emergencies, monitoring wildlife and criminal activity, managing a team of rangers, working with surrounding communities in the management of the parks, and maintaining a good relationship between the park and state services. He also works with tourists who come to the park to see the iconic Mountain Gorillas that call Virunga home.
Overall, Keita says, his job is to protect the entire park, the park’s wildlife and communities, as well as the civilians who pass through the roads inside the park. Virunga is a World Heritage site and is home to more species of birds, reptiles and mammals than any other protected area on the continent.
It is also in a region afflicted by 25 years of armed conflict, which has led, in part, to the death of more than 200 park rangers protecting the park since the beginning of the first Congolese civil war. For Keita, this means not only securing the park, but making sure that the communities around the park are benefitting. “We can’t forget that people around the park have experienced decades of violent conflict and are extremely impoverished,” Keita says, “so supporting them is imperative for the survival of the park.”
Keita is one of Virunga’s leaders in its mission to help build peace through the sustainable use of its ecosystem services. Re:wild has teamed up with the European Commission and Virunga National Park in a partnership that aims to restore the park’s ecosystems with a focus on the great apes, and establish the park as the major driver for economic growth, peace and stability in eastern Congo.