At least six rangers were ambushed and killed by armed men in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday.
Famous for its mountain gorillas, the UNESCO World Heritage site has been the site of persistent unrest as a wide variety of armed groups battle for control of oil and other rich mineral deposits.
“Mai-Mai carried out an ambush at Nyamitwitwi in the far end of the park. The provisional toll is six park rangers killed along with two Mai-Mai,” local government delegate Alphonse Kambale told AFP. Another park warden from the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) was also seriously injured. Mai-Mai is an umbrella term for community-based militias.
Protection of endangered mountain gorillas
With a multi-ethnic population of over 100 million, the Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s second-largest territorial state after Algeria and is almost seven times the size of Germany. It is also home to the largest remaining rainforest areas in Africa.
Virunga park itself was created in 1925 and covers some 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles). It is home to about a quarter of the world’s critically endangered population of mountain gorillas, many of whom live within a protected area at the foot of the Nyiragongo volcano.
The park is guarded by 689 armed rangers, at least 200 of whom have been killed in the line of duty over the past decade. In April 2020, a dozen rangers and 4 civilians were killed by a still unidentified group.