3 Park Rangers, 5 Soldiers in Killed in Gorilla Habitat in Congo

Virunga park gorilla photo

Image: Rachel Cernansky

Funeral services were held yesterday for three park rangers and five soldiers who were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade while trying to secure a safe public passage in the Congolese side of Virunga National Park, where the world's only remaining mountain gorillas call home. Although unconfirmed, the attackers are believed to be members of the FDLR Rwanda militia. Three other park rangers are still in the hospital with serious injuries.

Voice of America quotes Joel Wengamulay, communications director for Virunga National Park:

"It was a very emotional ceremony this afternoon and all families and relatives were present. All rangers were also present to give last honors to their colleagues for their courage... Our colleagues were buried at the park cemetery where all wardens and rangers in service are buried."

The attack is the most serious in at least a year. Some background from AFP:

More than 130 park rangers have been killed in various conflicts between government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996.

The 7,800 square kilometre (3,011 square mile) Virunga national park, established in 1925, is the oldest in Africa, and is home to around one-third of the world's population of rare mountain gorillas, as well as elephants, hippopotamus, buffalo and antelope.

Hutu rebels from neighbouring Rwanda have long been based in the park and regularly clash with government forces and other militant groups.

This is not the first time the region's gorillas have been affected by the conflict in the region, which may be fought locally but is by no means just a local issue.

More on mountain gorillas
Mountain Gorillas Killings Fueled by Charcoal Trade
Mountain Gorillas Caught in the Middle of DR Congo Fighting, Park Rangers Forced to Flee
In Rwanda, Saving Mountain Gorillas by Naming Them, on World Environment Day
The World's 6 Most Endangered and Dangerous Animal Habitats
More on the conflict in Congo
Conflict Minerals 101: Coltan, the Congo Act, and How You Can Help
Is Your Cell Phone Fueling Rape and Murder in the Congo?
Major Electronics Manfacturers Ignoring Their Role in DRC Conflict Mineral Mining
No More "Blood Phones" -- Conflict-Free Electronics Can Help End the World's Deadliest War

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