Virunga National Park in Crisis

UPDATED STATEMENT FROM VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK ON RECENT ATTACK

April 24, 2020. It is with great sadness that the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) confirms the identities of the Virunga Park Rangers and employees who tragically lost their lives as a result of the attack that occurred this morning at 11 am on Route Nationale 2 near the headquarters of Virunga National Park in Rumangabo.

ABEDI IYALU Kadhafi, Ranger, aged 23 years
ANUARI BIHIRA Lumumba, Ranger, aged 27 years
BADI MUKANDAMA Djamali, Ranger, aged 27 years
FAZILI JUSTIN Junior, Ranger, aged 29 years
KAMBALE MUTSOMANI

Jean-Louis, Ranger, aged 31 years
KAMBALE TEREMUKA Jules, Ranger, aged 28 years
KASOLE JANVIER Joseph, Ranger, aged 30 years
MASUMBUKO MALEKANI Ruphin, Driver, aged 40 years
MUGISHO KULONDWA Augustin, Ranger, aged 27 years
MUHINDO ISEVIHANGO Jeannot; Ranger, aged 30 years
MUHINDO KATEMBO Jacques, Ranger, aged 29 years
NDAGIJIMANA NDAHOBARI Héritier, Ranger, aged 27 years
PALUKU KALONDERO Moise, Ranger, aged 30 years

All of those that lost their lives leave behind families, colleagues, parents and grieving friends. Three other Rangers are seriously injured and one remains in a critical condition. They have been evacuated to medical facilities where they are receiving appropriate care. In addition to Virunga National Park staff, 4 civilians, not related to the Park, sadly lost their lives and a further 2 were injured.

Initial investigations indicate that the Rangers were on their way back to their headquarters when they encountered a civilian vehicle that had been attacked and subsequently came under a ferociously violent and sustained ambush. We can confirm that the perpetrators of this attack were the armed group “FDLRFOCA.”

The Rangers of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature are agents of the State responsible for the application of the Law on the Conservation of Nature. They do not have military status and their actions do not fall under the law of conflict. The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature will spare no effort to bring to justice, in accordance with the law, the perpetrators of this vile attack.

These tragic events will not be allowed to undermine Virunga National Park’s commitment to economic and humanitarian development programmes in partnership with, and for the benefit of, the communities that surround the Park. More than ever, those communities aspire to live in a climate of stability, justice and peace.

Our thoughts and prayers are tonight with the families and friends of all the victims, including the innocent civilians, as well as the injured Rangers.

The park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979. In recent years poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Virunga Foundation. The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) is a Congolese governmental partner tasked with the protection and conservation of the Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Members of the ICCN are charged with the overall protection of the parks and the endangered Mountain Gorilla.

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by Rick LoBello

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All National Parks Closed

 National Parks Conservation Association Photo

Big Bend National Park Temporarily Closed

No entry will be allowed into the park, except for employees, residents, and other authorized persons. Through traffic will be prohibited, as will travel on Terlingua Ranch Road within park boundaries. Until further notice.

The National Park Service is modifying its operations on a park-by-park basis in accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities. While most facilities and events are closed or canceled, many of our outdoor spaces remain accessible to the public. Before visiting, please check with individual parks regarding changes to park operations. If you choose to visit a national park, please ensure that you follow CDC and state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and practice Leave No Trace principles. Updates about the NPS response, including safety information, are posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.