Amid rebel militia advancements toward Rumangabo, where Virunga National Park headquarters is located, the park has evacuated most of the rangers and their families in order to keep them out of harm’s way. Photo by LuAnne Cadd/ Virunga National Park.
On July 8, 2012, nearly 800 people- rangers and their families- were evacuated from Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo and taken to the town of Goma, approximately 40 km to the south. Approximately 30 rangers and Virunga National Park warden Emmanuel de Merode stay behind to protect the park headquarters and the four orphaned mountain gorillas at the Senkwekwe Center.
“The evacuations of all the staff to the displacement camp in Goma went very well, with everyone both in Rumangabo and in Goma doing an extraordinary job,” wrote de Merode on the park’s website on July 9th. “The conditions in the new camp are very tough, with everyone living in terribly cramped conditions under tarpaulins, but they have safety, food and drinking water,” he added.
As of today, July 10, 2012, while the M23 rebels have occupied the military barracks at Rumangabo, they have left the park headquarters alone. While the situation remains volatile, the evacuated rangers and their families will remain in Goma.
This is not the first time Virunga National Park headquarters has been evacuated. In 2008, advancements by the rebel group CNDP kept the rangers and families in the temporary camp near Goma for many weeks. It is unknown this time, it is unknown how long it will take before Rumangabo is again safe enough for them to return home.
IGCP is working with our coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature to mobilize emergency resources for the displaced rangers and their families and for Virunga National Park/ICCN.
Keep abreast of the situation throughout Virunga National Park on their website gorilla.cd.