For the past two years, mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park have neither been visited nor monitored due to the ever-escalating conflict and instability in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and partly because of COVID-19 that previously hit the region. While the M23 and other rebel groups continue to use the Virunga National Park as a commanding base, it is highly risky for rangers, trackers, and tourists to visit the park.
“Following the evacuation of ranger posts from the park due to rebel attacks, it has become increasingly risky to enter the park. We can’t help worrying and wondering how the gorillas that have fallen sick during this period have managed. We only hope that the situation normalizes soon so that we can get back to routinely monitoring and treating these fragile species.” Eddy Kambale Syaluha, Gorilla Doctors’ Head Veterinarian in DRC.
According to Altor Musema, IGCP Country Coordinator in DRC, the situation has immensely affected tourism and conservation and the livelihoods of several people especially those that depended on the tourism sector for survival e.g., guides, trackers, porters, and the surrounding park edge community. And of course, the government revenue generated from tourism. “A year back, the security situation in the Mikeno sector deteriorated even more, preventing rangers from entering the park to carry out surveillance activities, including gorilla monitoring” says Altor Musema. This situation is worrying because it leaves the entire conservation community without any information about gorilla groups in an environment of unrest.