Six Rangers Killed in Congo’s Virunga Park

Six rangers were ambushed and shot to death yesterday in Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park. The 7,800-square-kilometre reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds over 1,000 endangered mountain gorillas, one-third the world’s remaining population.

The rangers died in a dawn skirmish with Mai-Mai, a loose collection of armed militia that fights for power and resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including within the park itself. Over the years, the Mai-Mai have kidnapped tourists, slain hundreds of hippos for meat, and killed several gorillas as well.

Mountain gorilla in Virunga. Photo: Shutterstock


World’s most dangerous profession

Since 1990, more than 170 rangers have died in similar attacks, giving these young caretakers, most of them in the twenties, the dubious honor of working in the world’s most dangerous outdoor profession. Just a year ago, assailants killed 17 people, including 12 rangers. In 2014, the director of the park, Emmanuel de Merode, was himself wounded in an attack.

The rangers were “taken by surprise”, the park said in a statement, and didn’t have a chance to defend themselves.

One other ranger was injured but survived. Almost 700 rangers work in the park, struggling to maintain order.

The DRC was included in a recent ExWeb story on the world’s most dangerous places.

Park ranger and friend.